Alaska Native corporations join to oppose oil tax reform repeal

Photo/Michael Dinneen/For the Journal

Six Alaska Native regional corporations have launched their own campaign to defeat Ballot Measure 1 on the August primary election ballot. The ballot measure would repeal Senate Bill 21, a bill restructuring the state oil production tax passed by state legislators in 2013.

“We are a coalition of local Alaska companies with our eye on the future as Alaskans, our businesses, our economy and opportunities for our shareholders and residents, said Rex Rock, president and CEO of Arctic Slope Regional Corp., at the May 28 initiative kickoff.

“No One on One,” will funded and operated separately from other campaigns organized to combat the initiative.

Rock joined five other Native corporation leaders in founding the “No One on One” initiative, including Aaron Schutt, president of Doyon, Ltd.; Sophie Minich, president of Cook Inlet Region Inc.; Helvi Sandvik, president of NANA Development Corp.; Jason Metrokin, president of Bristol Bay Native Corp. and Gail Schubert, president of Bering Straits Native Corp.

Rock and others announced the campaign at the ASRC Energy Services oilfield fabrication shop in South Anchorage.

Schutt, of Doyon, said his Fairbanks-based corporation is heavily invested in oil services and owns seven drill rigs now at work on the North Slope.

When the Legislature passed the previous oil tax, which imposed high taxes on the industry, the corporation felt an immediate hit to its business.

“We saw two of our rigs go down right away. Each rig has about 80 employees, and 95 percent of our employees are Alaskans and about half are Doyon shareholders,” he said.

Business picked up when the Legislature replaced the previous tax, he said.

In a statement, Sophie Minich of CIRI said, “CIRI’s top priority is to maintain strong dividends for our shareholders, and a strong, vibrant Alaska economy is essential to our success.”

“We’ve witnessed the industry’s commitment to new investment and have seen for ourselves the rebound in jobs and activity in the oil and gas industry and we want to see that trend continue.”

In her statement, Sandvik, of NANA, said her corporation had 4,000 employees in 2013 including 1,000 shareholders, working in industry.

“We need more investment in the oil industry. The state’s new tax structure encourages that,” she said.

In the event at the ASRC Energy shop Schutt said one part of SB 21 that is not well known is a section that grants special incentives for exploration in “frontier” basins in Interior and Northwest Alaska where there has been little drilling.

Doyon spent $50 million last year to fund the drilling of a test well in the Nenana Basin near Fairbanks and the first “3-D” seismic program in the Yukon flats, Schutt said.

“This program, which is intended to help find new energy sources in rural Alaska, was possible only because of the special incentives in SB 21. If the law is repealed, Doyon won’t be able to sustain the program,” he said.

11/21/2016 - 2:17pm