Andrew Jensen / Editorial

Slope oil giants set to prosper as veto fallout continues

The consequences continue to reverberate after Gov. Bill Walker’s veto of more than $600 million owed to independent explorers and producers in the last two years.

A pair of stories in the last week detail one company trying to meet its loan obligations to the state even as the state refuses to make good on its obligations to the company, and the other reveals that the major North Slope producers are now buying up the vetoed credits for pennies on the dollar to reduce their future tax liabilities.

New House Resource co-chairs sound right notes

To quote Slim Pickens’ Taggart from Blazing Saddles, “What in the wide world of sports is a-goin’ on here?”

In the decades since before and after Alaska statehood, the universal refrain among citizens and politicians is that the biggest hurdle to developing our vast natural resources is Washington, D.C.

Federal overreach. DC bureaucrats. Broken promises. Treehuggers.

After Donald Trump’s victory in the Nov. 8 election that carried several endangered blue state Republican senators to new terms, the GOP now holds unified control over Congress and the White House.

Democrats play by the Lombardi rule

“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

The well-known motto of the late great Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi is a philosophy Democrats understand and practice ruthlessly.

The GOP, on the other hand, is content to play the Chicago Cubs’ role of lovable losers, but without the lovable part.

If that wasn’t apparent before, it should be obvious now as we lurch toward the end of a presidential campaign pitting the Worst Candidates of All Time.

Walker went Bulworth at Alaska Chamber

“Going Bulworth,” if you don’t know, is an expression for politicians who say what they actually think. It comes from the 1998 movie starring Warren Beatty about a disillusioned U.S. senator who starts drinking at campaign events and rapping about single-payer healthcare.

Gov. Bill Walker went Bulworth in front of the Alaska Chamber.

At its annual meeting in Kenai on Oct. 12, Walker took the podium unshackled from any need to impress a group that was among those who gave him a grade of “D” on its business report card from the 2016 legislative session.

Separation of powers question must be answered

Gov. Bill Walker thinks he did the right thing by vetoing half of this year’s Permanent Fund Dividend appropriation. There can be no definitive answer to that question, but there will have to be one as to whether what he did was legal.

The legal question is obvious when Walker not only crossed out the $1.3 billion that was to be transferred from the Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve into the Dividend Fund, but also struck through the statutory language authorizing the payment.

Asia is nice, but the best bet is closer to home

Let’s just get it out of the way that there’s nothing inherently wrong with Gov. Bill Walker heading off on a 10-day sales junket to pitch the Alaska LNG Project to Asian markets.

This is the kind of thing governors are supposed to do. Sure, it’s going to cost money to send an eight-person delegation overseas, but that’s miniscule in the overall budget deficit.

Walker starts over on AK LNG

 “I’ll follow the process in place now, you bet I will. But at the first sign of delay, or someone says ‘we’re going to slow this down,’ that’s when the state needs to have a governor who understands what to do and has the guts to say, ‘we’re going to finish this project as Alaskans.’” Candidate Bill Walker, Oct. 28, 2014, Anchorage Dowtown Rotary Club debate.

“What I’ve said is that I will finish the project. I will not start over. I’m not interested in another start-over effort.” —Walker to Associated Press, Sept. 13, 2014.

Why is the Attorney General making budget proposals?

If any more proof was needed of the insular power structure that Gov. Bill Walker has created in Juneau, it was on display Oct. 28 when his proposal was rolled out to use Permanent Fund earnings and oil royalties to help bridge the gaping budget deficit.

You’d think such an announcement would come from the governor himself or Revenue Department Commissioner Randall Hoffbeck. Instead it was Attorney General Craig Richards, Walker’s former law partner and protégé, who presented the plan to legislators and staff.

Producers let Walker save face in pulling gas tax

Starting with Shell’s announcement Sept. 28 it would be suspending its Arctic exploration program indefinitely, it’s been a rough couple months for resource development in Alaska by any standard.

Having regulated Shell’s effort into uneconomic status, the Interior Department then canceled Arctic Outer Continental Shelf lease sales for 2016 and 2017 and refused to stop the clock on Shell’s leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas despite the fact that Shell lost a full year in 2010 because of a federal drilling moratorium following the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Producers want gas by 2025. Does Walker?

When it comes to the Alaska LNG Project, it appears Gov. Bill Walker is more interested in negotiating the pre-nup than he is in planning the wedding.

With his latest shot from the hip directed at the project so critical to the future of Alaska, Walker is pitching the idea of some kind of natural gas reserves tax levied against producers who decide against participating in AK LNG.

ExxonMobil doing heavy lifting on Alaska LNG Project

There was a bit of a flare-up in the ongoing negotiations over the Alaska LNG Project last week between Gov. Bill Walker and ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson.

In comments to Natural Gas Week, Tillerson said “Alaska is its own worst enemy” when it comes to building a natural gas pipeline and according to the article made no effort to hide his frustration with the current effort begun under former Gov. Sean Parnell and now being revised constantly by Walker.

Alaskans embrace executive 'overreach' on Denali

On the eve of President Barack Obama’s visit to Alaska, state residents and members of its congressional delegation finally found a bit of executive action they could support.

Obama’s announcement Aug. 30 that Mt. McKinley would be officially renamed Denali drew cheers from Alaskans who have long used the Native Athabascan word meaning “the high one” or “the great one” rather than the name assigned by Congress to North America’s tallest peak in 1917.

Expanding a broken system

Now that Gov. Bill Walker has done an end-run around the legislative branch to expand Medicaid, it’s worth a look at how growing the program is going in other states.

Here’s a roundup of Associated Press headlines from the last week:

“Surge in Medicaid enrollment will squeeze Michigan budget”

“Maryland Medicaid expansion much higher than forecast”

“New Hampshire among states with surging Medicaid enrollment”

“ND Medicaid expansion costs higher than previously forecast”

“California’s Medicaid enrollment surpasses projections”

An about face on exploration tax credits

Can you guess who said this?

“We need to incentivize. We need to do on the North Slope what we did in Cook Inlet. We incentivized specifically for more companies to come in on the front end and created the credit program.

“I worry about heavy oil. I worry that the biggest known resource on the North Slope is heavy oil. We have to incentivize that. I want to see 50 or 60 companies on the North Slope, as they do in Norway.

Walker might have two more fish seats to fill

For those who follow fish politics, Gov. Bill Walker has had a rough time filling a single seat on the Alaska Board of Fisheries. Now he may have to start thinking about new names for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

First, he told previous Board of Fisheries Chair Karl Johnstone in January that he would not be reappointed after his term ends this June 30; Johnstone resigned in response.

Sacrifices should be honored, not second-guessed

More than three years after the total U.S. withdrawal of forces from Iraq, the country has descended into chaos under the assault of ISIS and Republican presidential candidates are falling over themselves to declare the 2003 invasion a mistake they would not repeat knowing what we now do about the erroneous intelligence that convinced President George W. Bush and Congress to authorize it.

Shell, Foss are right to stand up to Seattle socialists

We’re all going to die. The human race will go extinct. This will destroy us.

That’s just a smattering of the hysterical Chicken Littling that fell on the ears of the Seattle Port Commission on May 12 as a parade of Arctic drilling opponents and avowed socialists urged the members to revoke the port’s contract with Foss Maritime and thereby prohibit Shell from parking the Polar Pioneer drill rig at Terminal 5 before it is towed to the Chukchi Sea this summer.

Legislature votes for factions over fish

The mantra “Fish come first” has been exposed as nothing more than a fish tale.

Gov. Bill Walker’s second crack at a Board of Fisheries nominee was defeated April 19 in the Legislature by a 30-29 vote when Robert Ruffner of Soldotna became the latest trophy — though likely not the last — mounted by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association.

Short-term cuts may cause long-term damage

In what are well-intentioned efforts to do everything possible to narrow a $4-billion budget gap, the appropriators in the Alaska Legislature may end up doing more harm than good.

There is simply no way to cut a way out of this deficit, which should have put the emphasis from the jump on structural reforms rather than nickel-and-dime reductions in the budget.

So far, the only such attempts are the effort to reform Medicaid from its unsustainable path and an operating budget that rejects 2.5 percent pay raises for unionized state employees in the next fiscal year.

Rules over reality, and clouding Sunshine Week

A couple weeks ago, the House Majority offered a high-minded defense against an accusation by Gov. Bill Walker that it was working for someone other than Alaskans by trying to limit his expansion plans for a state-led gas pipeline.

On March 2 in House Speaker Mike Chenault’s office, sponsors of legislation to prioritize the Alaska LNG Project over Walker’s new plan to create a competing project went one-by-one around the room emphasizing that they work for their 17,000 or so constituents in addition to all Alaskans.

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