Opinion

Walker is shocked to find politics going on in Juneau

There was a lot of Louis Renault going around Juneau last week. The Casablanca police captain unforgettably pronounced himself shocked — shocked! — to find out gambling was going on in Rick Blaine’s club. Renault’s supposed ignorance of the routine business in Blaine’s club is of course belied a moment later when an employee hands him a stack of cash: “Your winnings, sir.” “Oh, thank you very much,” Renault says as he pockets the money, “now everybody out!” On March 2, Gov. Bill Walker took his turn as Renault first, proclaiming himself shocked the House leadership introduced a bill to prioritize the ongoing Alaska LNG Project over Walker’s nebulous plan announced Feb. 18 to create a competing project by upsizing the Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline. A couple hours later, it was Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, who declared he was shocked that the impulsive new governor would fly off the handle in the manner he did at a hastily called press conference by insulting the bill sponsors, declaring House Bill 132 unconstitutional and vowing a veto. While the House sponsors no doubt expected a reaction from Walker, whose administration has not been forthcoming with the details of his new plan, it is possible they were surprised he would dispense with any modicum of decorum by calling their bill “un-Alaskan” and asserting they were working for someone besides their constituents. In Walker’s case, the more disturbing conclusion than a feigned ignorance of politics going on in Juneau is that of a willful ignorance. Did he really think the Legislature and its leadership that spent years crafting the structure of the Alaska LNG Project was going to roll over as he blew it up? Does he not realize that anything he wants — whether it is Medicaid expansion or funding for his new gas plan — will require that he work with legislators rather than vilify them? He can line item veto, but he can’t line item appropriate. It is probably also worth noting here that the legislation creating the Alaska LNG Project passed by veto-proof majorities in both houses. In their press conference following Walker, the House members including Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, were calm yet firm in their reaction to Walker’s personal attacks and easily defended the merits of the bill they’d just introduced. Walker, in contrast, was full of emotional bluster, disjointedly jumping from metaphor to metaphor about buying cars and leasing commercial office space, grasping at hearsay from a meeting with ExxonMobil to paint the House leaders as the only ones opposed to his idea to create a competing project to AK LNG. Repeatedly pressed by reporters about why he believes it is better to align with customers who want the lowest price possible than to align with the producers who not only have the gas but want the best price possible, Walker had no good answers. Instead, he kept going back to an example of a commercial office building that requires tenants signed up to lease space to finance construction That is all well and good, but the problem with Walker’s example is that he’s trying to finance a project and line up tenants when he doesn’t own the lot where he wants to build, or, in this case, the gas. Walker needs the suppliers of the gas — aka the big three producers — to be on board with any plan or he has nothing to market to customers. There is no way he can attempt to market 2 billion cubic feet of gas per day of which the state currently has no access. Going back to his real estate example, given that he doesn’t own the lot where he wants to build, Walker’s plan appears to be to seize it through eminent domain. If he really intends to invoke the “duty to produce” concept, North Slope gas will be tied up in court for decades. That would be a moot outcome, though, as the state will go bankrupt long before such a case is resolved. What is becoming clear is that Walker did not level with the Alaska voters during his campaign when he said he would continue the Alaska LNG Project as conceived and in fact always intended to chart his own course even if his haphazard style of governance alienates legislators and throws uncertainty at markets that were finally starting to take a North Slope gas project seriously. Not even Captain Renault could fake shock at this outcome. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

AJOC EDITORIAL: Board needed a shakeup, but aftershocks are coming

Alaska had a record number of earthquakes in 2014, but this year could set a new one if Gov. Bill Walker keeps it up. After openly picking a fight with the Legislature and the supporters of the Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline project by dismissing three Alaska Gasline Development Corp. board members, Walker has stepped on another fault line: Cook Inlet fisheries. While Alaskans are generally united on fisheries issues such as trawl bycatch or the Pebble mine, nothing sets state residents against each other with greater bitterness than the perennial fights among sport and commercial salmon users in Cook Inlet. Whether it is Kenai guides against East Side setnetters or Mat-Su Valley anglers and legislators against drift boats or “Joe Fisherman” against both sport guides and commercial users, the term “fish wars” coined to describe Cook Inlet management fights is not much of an overstatement. The long history of Cook Inlet controversies led to Walker’s latest dramatic move after the Board of Fisheries chaired by Karl Johnstone unanimously refused to deem United Cook Inlet Drift Association Executive Director Roland Maw qualified to interview for the job of Alaska Department of Fish and Game commissioner. While there can be no doubt that Maw has not only advocated for his membership but also sharply criticized board actions, there can also be no doubt that he was qualified to be interviewed for the job. The Board of Fisheries made a mockery of a public process and the law when it refused, without comment, to interview him and put on the record what are the well-known concerns about placing an advocate such as Maw — or any advocate for that matter — into the commissioner post. Not only did Walker quickly inform Johnstone that he wouldn’t be nominated for a third term on the board, but when Johnstone resigned Walker tapped Maw to replace him. The move is stunning, and not just for the Hollywood plot twist. Maw is a far stronger commercial fishing advocate than any of the other members of the board who come from the industry, and replacing Johnstone with Maw reverses the balance of power on the seven-member board. The sport fish majority led by Johnstone instituted radical changes to Cook Inlet fisheries at its 2011 and 2014 meetings. After the 2011 meeting, Johnstone said that the allocative decisions made in some cases were worth “millions of dollars.” UCIDA has twice filed lawsuits in federal court challenging Alaska management of Cook Inlet salmon, the most recent in 2013 after the North Pacific Fishery Management Council formally ceded that control to the state in 2012. Relations are also strained between UCIDA and the Mat-Su Fish and Wildlife Commission because the Northern District sport users successfully pushed for new restrictions on drifters at the 2014 board meeting. Since then, the group has used state grant money to hire a consultant that commercial fishermen allege is biased against them. That sparked the most recent volley between the two user groups as UCIDA refused to attend a January workshop of the Mat-Su Commission. Walker doesn’t have to look far into the recent past to see how nasty the Cook Inlet fish wars can be over board nominations and he should expect one over Maw given the makeup of the board and that his term will include the next Upper Cook Inlet meeting in 2017. The Kenai River Sportfishing Association, or KRSA, mounted a vicious lobbying campaign in 2013 against former member Vince Webster, a setnetter from Bristol Bay, and succeeded in defeating his nomination by a 30-29 vote — the only one of then-Gov. Sean Parnell’s 88 nominations who was not confirmed. That was when Webster wasn’t even a member of the majority, having lost the chairmanship to Johnstone in 2011. Think of what KRSA will do at the prospect of Maw shepherding the votes on the Board of Fisheries. The board needed a shakeup to be sure, but Walker should also be prepared for the aftershocks that are coming.

The new Congress brings new hope, new clout for Alaska

For the first time in eight years, Republicans control both chambers of Congress. While our eight-vote majority in the Senate is not enough to unilaterally overcome filibusters or presidential vetoes, it is enough to restore regular order and actual debate on important issues. The changes we are bringing to the Senate — including longer work weeks and an open amendment process — will create opportunities for bipartisan coalitions to promote policies that strengthen Alaska and our nation. In this new Senate, Alaska will hold the gavels of both the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee. The combination of these powerful positions provides a singular opportunity for us to pursue policies that protect and strengthen Alaska’s rightful role as an American energy powerhouse. These new positions are critical for creating a bright future for our families. We now hold the gavels of the panels with both policy and spending authority over the federal agencies that control more than 60 percent of the public lands in our state. I will continue to be a tireless advocate for Alaskans — on a life-saving road for King Cove, increased access to our federal lands, offshore oil production, monetizing our natural gas resources, the responsible development of the Arctic coastal plain, and more — except now, federal officials will have no choice but to listen. Alaska’s natural resources are vital to our prosperity. That is why it’s in our interest to make our energy supplies as abundant, affordable, clean, diverse, and secure as possible. The best way to achieve these goals is to lead by example and encourage inclusive debate in both the committee and subcommittee. Bipartisanship and the flexibility to create solutions where perhaps none existed before are important, and I stand ready to work with federal agencies to create opportunities in Alaska. But that collaborative spirit ends when President Obama’s policies restrict access or stifle Alaskans. The greatest single issue of concern for many Alaskans is the high cost of energy. The good news is that we now have a unique opportunity to revisit our energy policies. Congress has not passed comprehensive energy legislation since 2007. Much has changed in the intervening years. It’s time to reimagine our energy policies and ensure that Alaska once again has a prominent role — as a source of supply for our nation, and a testbed for promising new technologies. As chairman I will pursue an aggressive energy and public lands agenda that promotes Alaska’s economic independence and self-reliance, all while respecting our environment. Implementing policies of abundance will help us finally access our rich resources. That includes the NPR-A — which has become a petroleum reserve in name only under President Obama — the waters of the outer continental shelf, the forests of Southeast, and many other areas where access has been prohibited. Promoting abundance is just the first step to making energy affordable. We must also look to energy efficiency to reduce costs for families and communities. From Kotzebue to Metlakatla and from Bethel to Eagle, improved energy efficiency for public buildings and homes offers a real opportunity to reduce energy bills. Voluntary programs rather than more government regulation is key to success. We must look for ways to continue building on the investments the Denali Commission and State of Alaska have made in energy for our communities and our people. Sadly, too many in Washington see policy as a pathway to protect Alaska from the people that live there. This attitude is especially visible in the current state of Arctic policy, where studies rather than investment is driving the agenda. With the United States taking over the Arctic Council this year, we must use our new leadership role to promote policies that respect the wishes of the Alaskans who call the Arctic home — and allow them to build lasting economies and create opportunities for their children. Low oil prices are creating a level of uncertainty about state revenues and some may want to look to Washington, D.C., for short-term answers, but lasting solutions will not come from another federal program. Instead they will come from policies that provide new access, facilitate new production, and finally achieve economic independence. With a restored Senate and key chairmanships, Alaska is well served in the 114th Congress. We should all be excited by the opportunities ahead. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is Alaska’s senior senator and chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. She has been a member of the Energy Committee since 2002.

Conservation isn't the goal of the anti-setnetter initiative

As you’re out shopping this holiday season, someone wielding a clipboard might approach you and ask if you want to save king salmon. Don’t be fooled. The petition being peddled by professional signature collectors throughout the state won’t save Alaska’s iconic king salmon. In fact, it will hurt our great salmon runs and result in smaller harvests for everyone except a small group of Kenai River sportfishing guides, lodges and private landowners. The goal of this petition is to put a misleading initiative in front of Alaska voters that, if passed, would end setnet fishing in Cook Inlet, put hundreds of Alaska families out of work, destroy one of the Kenai Peninsula’s biggest economic drivers and, most important, weaken the salmon runs on which Cook Inlet’s commercial, sport and personal-use fishermen depend. Initiative sponsors claim conservation as their goal but this initiative isn’t about saving fish, it’s about putting more king salmon in the river for the sport fishery to catch. That’s not conservation. It’s greed. This selfish effort to ban setnets hits home for me: My wife is my business partner; my two teenage children are members of our commercial fishing crew. Our business, our income, our investment in boats, motors, equipment, land, shore leases and gear would all be rendered valueless because a small group of well-financed, dishonest people want all the fish. It has taken the joy out of fishing and replaced it with fear for the future of this valuable, rich and colorful fishery. In 2013, the average king harvested in the East Side Setnet fishery, or ESSN, was very small; more than 75 percent weighed about 10 pounds or less. These three- and four-year-old kings are not valued by the sport fishery, which targets and retains only large kings. That same year, the ESSN fishery harvested 2,988 king salmon. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s genetic stock identification studies, approximately 2,300 of these were Kenai River late-run king salmon. Only 715 were large kings the sport fishery desires. Based on data from 1986-2011, the Kenai River sport fishery harvests about 22 percent of the total annual king run. If the ESSN fishery had been eliminated and those additional 715 large kings had entered the Kenai River, only about 157 fish would have been caught by sport-fishermen. So this initiative would kill an entire industry and put thousands out of work to provide sport-fishermen the opportunity to catch an additional 157 king salmon. Because of a poor king run in 2013, the ESSN fishery was open under a very restrictive fishing schedule. Even so, the fishery generated an ex-vessel value of more than $9 million with its sockeye salmon catch alone. At the same time, the late king run made its escapement goal as it has every year since biologists have tracked it. According to an analysis of Alaska’s commercial seafood industry conducted by the Alaska-based McDowell Group, sockeye taken in Cook Inlet setnet fisheries generate a big impact in Alaska because the expenditure per fish is relatively high, and more are sold into local markets. McDowell says a conservative multiplier of 4 to 4.5 must be applied to that ex-vessel value to realize its true impact. That means the $9 million ESSN harvest brought roughly $40 million to the local economy. Had a setnet ban been in place, Alaska’s economy would have been deprived of these millions of dollars and thousands of fishing jobs. In order to offset the loss of the ESSN fishery, those additional 157 kings would have to generate more than $250,000 each, if caught in the in-river fishery. What is likely to happen if the inlet is managed solely for the guided sportfishing industry? Just look at the health of the Kenai River’s early king run for your answer. This run is fished solely by the sport fishery, and has been for decades. Unfortunately, it is in dire straits, having missed its escapement goals several times over the last two decades, most recently in 2013. Recent weir data shows that the majority of the run now consists of small, male fish. That comes as no surprise, either, as sport fishermen have continually selectively fished for the large, trophy kings, foregoing the smaller jacks. Size is a heritable trait in king salmon, and the removal of generation after generation of the large fish by the guided sport fishery has had a detrimental impact on Kenai River early-run king salmon both in run strength and individual fish size. The ESSN fishery, with nets designed to catch sockeye weighing four- to 10-pounds, also catch kings of the same size, giving the big Kenai kings that make it to the spawning grounds a greater impact on the population’s gene pool. This anti-setnet initiative has nothing to do with truth or conservation. It’s simply a smoke screen to hide the negative impact of the guided sport fishery on the health and well being of Kenai River king salmon. Andy Hall is an East Side setnetter, a lifelong Alaskan and president of the Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association.

Research shows freshwater problem with Mat-Su salmon

The Mat-Su Basin Salmon Habitat Partnership, representing 55 organizations that share an interest in sustaining salmon in the Mat-Su, hosted a conference in November. During the two days of the 2014 Mat-Su Salmon Science & Conservation Symposium, speaker after speaker gave detailed descriptions of recent and on-going projects that are providing baseline data and documenting the scope of impaired salmon habitat in the Mat-Su basin. There were several presentations on aquatic invasive species. Elodea, a highly invasive plant species, was recently discovered in Alexander Lake, transported there by floatplane. This infestation, if not eliminated, could rapidly spread throughout Alexander Lake and creek system and further, providing excellent habitat for the other invasive specie, Northern Pike. In the 1990s Alexander Creek supported a multi-million dollar king salmon sport fishery that included numerous lodges, cabin and boat rentals and fishing guide operations. In 2008, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game closed king fishing in Alexander Creek and later documented its decline and closure as entirely due to pike predation on juvenile salmonids. In recent years ADFG has eliminated thousands of pike from the Alexander system but it will take years of continued mitigation before the salmon runs can recover. The spread of invasive elodea throughout the lake, creek and side sloughs will hinder ongoing efforts to rehabilitate this system. Shell Lake is another fascinating story. In 2006 Shell Lake had nearly 70,000 sockeye salmon return to spawn, by 2012 the salmon run had nearly collapsed due to pike predation and disease. The Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association took eggs from the remaining salmon, incubated and reared them at their Trail Lakes Hatchery. About 80,000 smolts from this hatch were released back into Shell Lake in 2014. Only about 20,000 of these smolts made it out of the lake and downstream towards the ocean, the other 60,000 smolt were consumed by the Northern Pike in the lake within a few weeks. ADFG has been documenting the pike infestation in the Mat-Su basin since the mid-1990s. Numerous studies and reports have indentified the devastating consequences to the salmon populations, it is estimated that at least 50 percent of the salmon production in this watershed has been eliminated by Northern Pike. All species are affected and species that spend the most time in freshwater — sockeye, kings and cohos — are the most vulnerable to pike predation. At the symposium we heard references to the work being done to replace culverts that block salmon passage. At this time there are still over 400 culverts that impede the migration of salmon and need to be replaced in the Mat-Su basin. While there were no actual reports on the progress made, we know that it will take years of effort and millions of dollars to restore passage to the more than 600 miles of documented spawning and rearing habitat that have been made inaccessible to salmon due to improperly constructed culverts. Pollution, high water temperature and turbidity can all affect water quality and ultimately affect the successful spawning and rearing of salmon. Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation gave a brief presentation about impaired waters. Big Lake, Cottonwood Creek, Deshka River, Little Su, Lake Lucille, Matanuska River and others are all impaired at some level from hydrocarbons (gas and oil), sewage, urban runoff, herbicides, fertilizers and dump debris. Off-road-vehicle and ATV traffic damage to salmon streams was presented as a long-term challenge. Baseline mapping of ATV stream crossings has begun. Most of the crossings evaluated were ranked as “extremely degraded”. We learned that ORV/ATV traffic in the watershed is unregulated and increasing. One of the keynote speakers at the Symposium gave a powerful presentation on the efforts to conserve and restore Atlantic salmon on the east coast and how partnering and collaboration among all stakeholder groups is essential for any conservation effort. This message resonated loudly and was endorsed by most of those attending. The Mat-Su Basin Salmon Habitat Partnership mission statement also echoes this message of collaboration. Yet, in spite of all the scientific evidence of impaired salmon habitat, in spite of all the ADFG reports that identify declining salmon production in the Mat-Su basin as a freshwater problem, there are still a few people with such a myopic point of view that they are unwilling to accept these scientific realities. In a desperate and divisive attempt to blame someone else for their own problems, the Mat-Su Borough is proposing to waste the bulk of their recent state grant by hiring Outside consultants to invent new research projects about salmon movements in saltwater. Rather than killing pike, eliminating elodea, replacing more culverts, or reducing pollution sources, they want to fund projects that fit their agenda to perpetuate the salmon allocation wars. Wouldn’t it make more sense to spend increasingly scarce state funds on local projects with already identified solutions that will benefit our salmon resources, rather than waste money on high priced fishery consultants from Oregon? Erik Huebsch is a lifelong Alaska commercial fisherman who lives in Kasilof.

Change, opportunity in Alaska Communications' new focus

I once heard it said, “if you’re not moving forward, then you’re falling behind.” Those words aptly describe the motivations behind Alaska Communications’ decision, announced just last week, to move its business in an exciting new direction. After a long and proud history of serving Alaskans, Alaska Communications revealed Dec. 4 that it will focus on expanding its already successful broadband services and will discontinue providing wireless services. As an Alaskan, a customer and a member of the Alaska Communications board of directors, I believe this decision not only will boost the company’s future growth, but also provide customers with the highest quality broadband Internet services in Alaska. The company, recognizing the need to shift its focus and move forward, signed an agreement to sell its shared wireless network and wireless phone subscribers to GCI in a transaction that will close in 60 to 90 days. The sale will enable Alaska Communications to reinvest in its business, to further improve technology and service and provide more value to its customers. The company will become even stronger for the long-term. As the former president and CEO of one of Alaska’s largest businesses, I know firsthand how business enterprises need their service providers to deliver reliable, consistent service. By bringing focus specifically on the company’s broadband services, Alaska Communications will have the resources to bring faster, more reliable, unlimited internet to Alaska’s businesses and homes across the state — while continuing to grow its business offerings at an industry-leading pace. In this way, we will do our part to help Alaska’s businesses succeed. Already, Alaska Communications’ strength in broadband and its related IT-managed services has attracted major customers such as the State of Alaska, Providence Hospital, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and the Anchorage School District. I am no stranger to the need to lead business transitions and to shift focus. By definition, transitions involve change, and change can necessitate making difficult, even courageous, decisions. At Alaska Communications, we are fully committed to helping our employees — those who will no longer work for us and those who will help forge our new direction. We have made sure that people and resources are readily available to assist any member of our company through this transition. Our company has always valued its employees and will continue to promote a vibrant workplace in years to come. For Alaska Communications, Alaska truly is the most important place on earth. Our Alaskan roots are deep — with a history of being in business in Alaska for more than 100 years. Our employees understand the unique needs of Alaskan business and they work hard to earn their trust every day. Our commitment to providing first-rate customer care will not change. We are — and will remain — Alaskans serving Alaskans. Being Alaskan means being able to adapt. And in the fast-paced and ever-changing telecommunications industry to adapt is the only way to not fall behind. By leaving the wireless business, we emerge as a stronger, better and more profitable company. At Alaska Communications, we will build on our successful track record and move forward with focus and determination — strong and ready to seize new opportunities before us. Margie Brown is an Alaska Communications board member and the former president and CEO of CIRI.

Bristol Bay, Bering Sea need protection from oil drilling

There is no match to Alaska’s diverse and productive fisheries. From Southeast to the Bering Sea, we produce half of the U.S. domestic seafood. Fisheries management might be complex but the result is simple: healthy fisheries equal more jobs than any other private sector enterprise in the state and a tax base that supports Alaska’s coastal economy and communities.  Our responsibility is to take good care of the habitat that makes this abundance all possible so that future generations of Alaskan fishermen have an opportunity like we have had. Bristol Bay and the southeast waters of the Bering Sea is one place where choices should be clear. This region accounts for the greatest magnitude and wealth of Alaska’s fisheries. Not only are the rivers and lakes of Bristol Bay host to 50 percent of the world’s sockeye salmon, the marine waters support other valuable fisheries. Here is one of the most important halibut nursery grounds, contributing to the halibut population throughout both the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. What happens here arguably affects halibut fishermen everywhere. The prized red king crab grow to maturity in Bristol Bay and Alaska’s large groundfish fisheries, including pollock and cod, are located nearby. Herring arrive in the early spring, turning on a spectacle of marine life and supporting the significant roe, food and bait fisheries. There is a decision pending at the EPA about whether or not the super-sized Pebble mine can go forward in the Bristol Bay watershed. In this past November election, an impressive 75 percent of the voters agreed to raise the bar on approving future large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve. There should be no question of the statewide concern about protecting the Bristol Bay salmon fishery from large-scale mining. Another decision is needed that will put to rest the question of opening the marine waters of Bristol Bay and the southeast Bering Sea to offshore oil and gas drilling. Although promises can be made about more jobs and economic diversity, we have to ask at what risk? Not all economic activity is compatible with the long-term interests of the successful renewable industry we already have. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management estimates the region’s oil and gas resources to be worth $7.7 billion over a 25- to 40-year period. The fisheries could produce $50 billion to $80 billion over that same time. The geology represents one of the lowest reserves around the nation’s Outer Continental Shelf. High risk but low return does not sound like a sound business plan for sustaining our fisheries or meeting our energy demand. In 1995, the U.S. Department of the Interior bought back leases from the oil companies that they had purchased in the 1980s because of ongoing and unresolved concerns that Bristol Bay is meant for fisheries, not offshore drilling. But since then the government has attempted to re-open the same area that had been bought back. We need a reliable decision to protect Bristol Bay now and for the future. This is the time to remove Bristol Bay and southeast Bering Sea from the federal oil and gas leasing program for good. It makes no sense to come back to the same question every five years when the Department of the Interior puts a new leasing schedule together. Presidents and administrations come and go, so it is our job to generate a lasting solution. As fishermen, we’re out there to catch fish and provide quality natural food for the nation — but the truly magnificent phenomenon of millions of sockeye surging to the rivers is a humbling observation every season. We need to provide permanent protection for Bristol Bay fisheries resources from economic displacement — like the Pebble mine and offshore oil and gas drilling — that jeopardizes the nation’s most valuable fisheries.  Please join us in support of a permanent withdrawal of Bristol Bay from the Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. Longstanding Bristol Bay commercial salmon fishermen, Stosh Anderson lives in Kodiak, Alaska and Robert Heyano is a life-long resident of Bristol Bay.

Judge puts brakes on the EPA

In a remarkable twist to the decade-long saga over the Pebble mine, a federal judge ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to halt its work on the effort to preemptively veto the project before any plans have been submitted. It is a ruling that should be cheered by everyone in the resource development community — in Alaska and around the nation — as the beleaguered company carries on its legal challenges against the EPA’s attempt to establish precedential powers under the Clean Water Act that will no doubt eventually go beyond Pebble and chill investment across the country. The heart of this case — and why Judge H. Russel Holland’s ruling is significant — is the routine behind-the-scenes collaboration between government agencies such as the EPA and anti-development interest groups to fix the outcome of decisions. The Freedom of Information Act responses obtained by the Pebble Limited Partnership and relied upon by Holland in issuing his injunction Nov. 24 reveal an EPA process that dates back to at least 2008 when Phillip North of Region 10 began laying out a roadmap for how to stop the project. One of the major arguments the EPA has advanced over the years since it announced in 2011 it would conduct an assessment of mining impacts in the Bristol Bay watershed is that the agency was compelled to undertake the process because it had been asked to by Alaska Native groups in the region. However, the emails by and among EPA officials and anti-Pebble groups reveal that the idea for having Native groups ask for the assessment originated because the agency knew it could not independently begin the process without a permit application and so the plan was hatched to have stakeholders in the region make the request. What is abundantly clear from the emails and records obtained by Pebble is that the EPA was never committed to an unbiased evaluation of mining in the region and in fact was seeking evidence to support its predetermined outcome. Reaching a conclusion before conducting the research is in fact the opposite of science, and the anti-Pebble groups and EPA officials who state the Bristol Bay assessment is a scientific document should rethink that claim. It has been written in this space that Pebble may very well be the wrong mine in the wrong place, and without discussing the merits of the project it is apparent that the overzealous and potentially unlawful effort to preemptively stop the mine may very well end up doing more harm than good to its opponents. If Holland eventually rules in Pebble’s favor and against the EPA, the entire multi-year assessment process and millions of taxpayer dollars will have been wasted leaving the leaders of that effort with no one but themselves to blame. When a judge issues an injunction, the key pillar of the decision is whether the party seeking it is likely to prevail on the merits of the underlying claim. Holland’s issuance of an injunction against the EPA reveals that he believes this to be case. It is also important to note that the same Judge Holland in September dismissed another case brought by Pebble against the EPA challenging the Bristol Bay assessment as not ripe for consideration. Holland’s decisions reaching opposite outcomes in the two Pebble cases reveal he is considering each case on the merits according to the law, which is the sort of unbiased demeanor that federal agencies such as the EPA are also obligated to bring to bear on issues such as Pebble. His injunction against the EPA and its process for producing the Bristol Bay assessment is a sign that the agency failed to meet that neutral obligation and may finally be held to account for it. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

Obama makes a sucker's deal with China

There is a simple way to tell if the deal on carbon emissions between the United States and China announced Nov. 12 is good for them and bad for us: the Chinese agreed to it. Unlike our “citizen of the world” president, China always acts in its best national interests while Barack Obama has made it his practice for six years to lower American standing and influence around the world. On its face the deal is a joke. China agreed to begin lowering its emissions — in 2030. At the same time, Obama agreed to cut U.S. emissions by as much as 28 percent before 2025. What that means is that China’s growth in emissions — and it is already the world leader at 25 percent of carbon emissions compared to America’s 15 percent — between now and 2030 will entirely offset any cuts made in the U.S. and then some. That makes the whole agreement pointless and entirely detrimental to the American economy in return for exactly nothing in terms of reduced carbon emissions. Brilliant! It is discouraging to see the American president pushed around so easily by the world’s dictators in China and Russia, who flaunted their new close ties throughout Obama’s visit and put a lie to the idea that Vladimir Putin has in any remote way been isolated as a consequence of his invasion of Ukraine that has led to thousands killed and his military’s role in the downing of a commercial airliner that killed 298 people. China’s state-run media ridiculed Obama in advance of his visit, and during the visit the Chinese unveiled their new stealth jet fighter based on technology they stole from the United States via hacks into military subcontractors. Meanwhile the Chinese military continues an unrelenting series of cyberattacks on everything from the Post Office to the White House. The Chinese are squashing dissent in Hong Kong and flexing muscles against their neighbors in the South China Sea where they are stirring up conflicts with Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines. Throw in their role as the escape route for NSA leaker Edward Snowden as he made his way to safe haven in Russia and it is clear that Obama is neither feared nor even respected by the likes of Xi and Putin. And how does Obama respond to the repeated Chinese provocations, which when targeted at our military are direct threats to our national security? He chomps gum and talks unironically about “taking our relationship to the next level.” If only Xi and Putin were Republicans, or maybe the prime minister of Israel. Then Obama would have no trouble playing hardball. Unfortunately in his permanent state of belief that America is no more than just one of 200 or so nations around the world, he only appears comfortable when he is directing the force of his office and his bully pulpit against his domestic political rivals rather than America’s foreign adversaries. As much as Obama refuses to come to terms with the Nov. 4 election results, the American people are putting the brakes on his administration and when the new Republican-led Senate takes over in January one of the first orders of business should be to kill this sucker’s deal. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

AJOC EDITORIAL: Turnout doesn't measure up to options on the ballot

I usually don’t buy into post-election hand-wringing over voter turnout for a simple reason: If you don’t care enough to vote then I really don’t want you having a hand in the outcome anyway. That said, however, the extremely low turnout for the 2014 general election is mystifying. After 100 percent of the precincts were counted by the wee hours of Nov. 5 and a lonely correspondent from CNN had the vacated Egan Center all to himself at 7 a.m. Eastern time blearily reporting on the Alaska results, only 44.8 percent of the state’s nearly 510,000 registered voters had cast a ballot. Even adding in the 20,000 or so outstanding absentees and questioned ballots only gets turnout to a bit less than 49 percent. Leading up to Tuesday, I’d mentioned more than once at my local watering hole — where talking politics is allowed — that given the smorgasbord of issues and diverse candidates on the ballot that it should be the highest turnout in Alaska history (of course that was before I looked up the numbers, which I’ll discuss below). After all, if you couldn’t find something on this year’s ballot that could get you out to the polls then I can’t imagine another set of choices that could. There was a governor’s race that suddenly became competitive in the last two months of the year through an unprecedented and opportunistic combination of a Republican and a Democrat ticket with Bill Walker and Byron Mallott. That alone was enough to change a yawner of a race into a nail-biter, but throw in the central issue of the emerging Alaska LNG Project between Walker and Gov. Sean Parnell and there was far more than a just four-year term on the line. While the governor’s race featured a contest between two Republicans, there was a U.S. Senate race featuring the highest spending ever in the state that offered as clear a choice as can be imagined. The stakes were no less than the control of the upper body of Congress, the demotion of Majority Leader Harry Reid and the ascendency of Sen. Lisa Murkowski to the most powerful position for Alaska since the late Sen. Ted Stevens chaired Appropriations. Even our eternal congressman Don Young made his challenge from Forrest Dunbar interesting with his increasingly rough and reckless pronouncements that were possibly once endearing but now are more than a little wearisome. Throw in not one, but three statewide ballot measures alternately known as “pot, pay and Pebble” or “weed, wages and watersheds” plus the hotly debated Anchorage labor union ordinance repeal for the state’s population hub and there really was something for everyone. But in the end it looks like turnout won’t crack 50 percent for this race, which would make it the lowest turnout in a nonpresidential/gubernatorial general election for any cycle going back to 1978. (Division of Elections records don’t break down turnout before 1976). The previous best was 74.9 percent in 1982 when nine bond issues were on the ballot, and the previous low was 50.1 percent in 1998. As I mentioned at the top, if you didn’t vote because you don’t care then I’m glad. But for the first time I’m actually curious why.

Obama not choosing 'all of the above' in Alaska

Editor’s note: This column is in response to an Oct. 8 New York Times article about Alaska titled, “As Energy Boom Ends, a Political Identity Crisis.” We certainly accept the premise of the New York Times article. Falling production is provoking economic anxiety, bordering on an economic crisis, in Alaska. Yet, it is also completely unnecessary, because there’s plenty of oil in Alaska. In its “Annual Energy Outlook for 2014,” the Energy Information Administration estimates that Alaska — alone — has 38 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil. Some of that oil is located on state lands, in the form of reserves at existing fields. But the lion’s share is in the Outer Continental Shelf (23 billion barrels), the non-wilderness portion of the Arctic Coastal Plain (over 10 billion barrels), and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (roughly 1 billion barrels). It’s also important to keep in mind that whenever Alaskans are actually allowed to look for oil, we tend to find more than expected. So in a massive state with huge swaths of land that remain unexplored, 38 billion barrels could ultimately prove to be an underestimate. Certainly, that was the case with Prudhoe Bay, which is now at 17 billion barrels produced and counting. For today’s purposes, though, we’ll stick with EIA’s number: 38 billion barrels of oil. How much is that, exactly? Well, if produced at a rate of 1 million barrels per day, Alaska’s oil would last for 38,000 days — or about 104 years. If production is allowed to reach even higher rates, Alaska could have enough resource in the ground to replace nearly 30 years of oil imports from OPEC or more than 50 years of oil imports from the Persian Gulf. The problem is that the federal government, which controls more than 60 percent of the land in Alaska, has repeatedly blocked efforts to develop our resources. Despite President Obama’s willingness to take credit for rising production on state and private lands in the Lower 48, his real record is best revealed in places like Alaska. He and his administration have repeatedly denied access to promising lands; blocked or delayed the approval of roads and bridges needed so that production can begin; and issued regulations that fail to hold up in court. It’s usually more instructive to judge someone by their actions rather than their words, and the Obama administration is no different. The administration has now locked up half — more than 11 million acres — of the NPR-A, an area explicitly reserved for energy production. The administration is “revising” the management plan for the Arctic coastal plain; most interpret that as a plan to lock the area up as wilderness after the election, even though Congress has repeatedly rejected bills seeking the same. The administration is also rewriting its rules for offshore exploration in Alaska and subsequently delaying efforts to return to an area that was safely explored and successfully drilled more than 20 years ago. President Obama is not pursuing an “all of the above” strategy in Alaska. Instead, his administration’s restrictions are now inducing levels of economic anxiety in local residents that the New York Times has deemed worthy of the national spotlight. We appreciate the coverage, but what we’d really like is a president and a Senate that will work with us to solve the problem — by producing more of Alaska’s energy. Robert Dillon is the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee communications director and a spokesman for Ranking Member Alaska U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

Alaskans deserve reform that cuts costs, improves services

It has now been more than four years since then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi explained to Americans why she had to push the health care reform bill through in such a rush: “We have to pass the bill to find out what’s in the bill … and get away from the fog.” Now it is 2014, the fog is lifting, and we are watching the “Affordable Care Act,” or ACA, fall apart under its own weight, and contradictory legal interpretations. The Administration has now unilaterally delayed or changed over 30 of the health care law’s provisions. Earlier this month, MODA, one of our two health care insurance providers, announced it would not extend noncompliant “bare bones” policies past this year. Of course, they would not have been put in the position to offer these policies in the first place if the president had not postponed a piece of the law for two years to keep his, “If you like your health care, you can keep it” promise from becoming demonstrably untrue — at least until he is on his way out of office. On the legal front, it is unclear who is eligible under the law for subsidies — premium tax credits — to help defray the cost of health insurance. In July, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that only those who purchase insurance through state-based exchanges may qualify for subsidies, while the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that subsidies may also be applied to plans purchased through federally facilitated exchanges (i.e. the national Healthcare.gov site). Given the split in the circuits, this issue could reach the U.S. Supreme Court, but that just means more uncertainty for the time being. We also recently saw the Alaska Division of Insurance announce that “rates for health insurance plans covering nearly 16,000 Alaskans will increase substantially in 2015 as a result of the Affordable Care Act.” In 2015, Premera Blue Cross insurance rates will increase between 35 and 40 percent, and the middle “Silver” plan will see an increase of 37 percent on average. According to the Alaska Director of Insurance Lori Wing-Heier, MODA premiums will increase between 22 percent and 28.8 percent. The agency also announced that even with these cost increases, the health insurers were still going to be losing millions of dollars. How did we get here? If you remember back to 2009, the health care law was sold on a promise to reform our nation’s health care system, reduce premiums for families by $2,500 a year, and make health care more accessible and affordable for all Americans. That sounded great then and sounds great now, but unfortunately these promises have not come to fruition for many Alaskans. Four years later, we have dealt with a botched website, skyrocketing premiums, greater out-of-pocket costs, and employers dropping coverage and sending employees to state-based or federally facilitated exchanges instead of complying with burdensome and expensive federal mandates. The key reason I opposed the health care law when it was proposed and jammed through Congress? Not politics; just simple math. The basic economics of being a high-cost rural state with limited providers has resulted in the costly outcomes we are seeing today. Like storm clouds approaching on the horizon, this was a problem many people could see coming. With the mandate to require that every Alaskan buy coverage — or force them to pay a tax — the ACA was doomed to fail our state and make health care coverage even less affordable. In high population states with many providers and participants, expenses can be spread out across thousands or millions of residents; but in Alaska, just a few expensive medical cases can ripple across the state and hit Alaskans’ pocketbooks. If you have been watching this debate unfold, you are likely aware that enrolling young, healthy Americans in the health care exchanges is the key to making the equation work. These “young invincibles,” as they are referred to by policymakers, would pay their premiums, be less likely to need care and stabilize the overall cost structure. Before enrollments got underway, insurance providers said they needed a third of Alaskans between the ages of 18 and 25 to enroll, however, only 9 percent have yet to do so. When you look at the costs involved, it is tough to blame them. For example, MODA premiums for 19-year-old Alaskans increased in all three categories: up 55 percent in the basic “Bronze” category and double for the “Silver” plans — from $1,092 per year in 2013 to $2,268 per year in 2014. Health insurance costs for younger Alaskans have increased the most because the ACA prohibits insurers from charging a 64-year-old more than three times the premium they charge a 21-year-old — so the entire formula gets inflated. Worse still, the law imposes an added, costly tax referred to as the “Cadillac Tax” on high-dollar insurance plans — meaning most of the plans available to older Alaskans — which tacks on an added 40 percent charge to insurance plans valued at $10,200 (individual) and $27,500 (family) starting in 2018. Even before the premium increase was announced, Jason Gootee, the head of MODA’s Alaska operations, said, “An independent actuarial study commissioned by the state in 2012 projected premiums to rise between 30 percent and 80 percent. The one piece of good news for Alaskans is that a high percentage of them who purchase through the exchange qualify for a subsidy.” But, a policy that forces Alaskans to utilize government subsides should not be considered sound policy — and I have heard from many Alaskans who do not like being put in the position of asking for a subsidy for a basic expense like health care. With more troubling data from the Alaska Division of Insurance coming out regularly about the surging costs, providers are acknowledging that the economics are not working out and Alaskans are paying the second-highest premiums in the nation. According to Eric Earling, Spokesman for Premera, “We’ve been working on a number of initiatives to control rising medical costs in Alaska, but major challenges exist. We’re very concerned about that impact on our customers and all Alaskans. The Affordable Care Act adds more to the cost of healthcare coverage and the cost of the ACA’s individual market changes in states with smaller populations like Alaska is not sustainable without action.” This means many Alaskan individuals, families and employers are asking tough questions: Do we make cuts to our family budget to buy health insurance? Do we skip buying health insurance and pay the tax instead? As a small employer, do I drop coverage for my employees because of all the federal mandates? Alaskans deserve better. Doctors are required to take the Hippocratic Oath before they practice medicine, which boils down to “First, do no harm.” Unfortunately, this bill to create “affordable care” is causing real harm to thousands of Alaskans, whether by premium increases or the real risk of a detrimental change in employment or benefits. The Affordable Care Act has evolved from a controversial partisan power play to a late-night punchline to a major economic drain on our state. Alaskans deserve true health care reform that cuts costs and improves access to services. I will continue to fight for this Alaskan priority in Washington, D.C. Lisa Murkowski is the senior U.S. senator from Alaska.

Cook Inlet comeback reflects state, local leadership

For those who love comeback stories, it is difficult to find a better example than Cook Inlet. Just a few short years ago, Alaska’s oldest oil and gas basin was in a death spiral. Years of declining production of both oil and gas jeopardized Southcentral’s longtime energy supply, to the point that serious discussions were underway about importing liquefied natural gas, or LNG. I found the situation entirely unacceptable in a state that is still so rich in natural resources. Fast forward to today, and I can say with confidence that bold leadership and decisive action have turned Cook Inlet around. Just this year, Cook Inlet oil producers have boosted output 25 percent. More impressive, production has essentially doubled in Cook Inlet since fiscal year 2010, increasing from 8,900 barrels per day in fiscal year 2010 to 16,288 barrels per day presently. This means Southcentral residents and businesses are now assured of a reliable source of energy for years to come. This dramatic turnaround is not just a happy accident. As governor of the state, I realized years ago the situation was serious and needed immediate action. On both the state and local level, I worked alongside members of the Legislature and with municipal leaders, like my running mate, Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, to create incentives to attract new investment in the aging basin. This proposal was broadly supported in the Legislature, with key Republicans and Democrats endorsing the effort. House Bill 280 passed in 2010 and was quickly signed into law. The resulting positive effects were almost immediate. Investment by Inlet oil producers came flooding back into Cook Inlet by independents like Hilcorp and Cook Inlet Energy, among others. The two companies have been drilling new wells and upgrading platforms acquired from others steadily, with solid results that benefit all Southcentral Alaskans. ConocoPhillips was even able to restart the mothballed LNG export plant near Nikiski. An additional benefit of all this activity and the resulting production was the creation of a natural gas storage facility. This allows gas producers to store excess gas that is extracted from the basin in the warmer months when demand is low, and save it for the colder months when demand spikes. The storage facility offers an additional level of security for Southcentral residents who rely on Cook Inlet’s gas every day for heat, lights and electricity. Perhaps just as important as energy reliability is the economic impact this legislation has made on the Kenai Peninsula. Ask anyone in Kenai, Soldotna or Nikiski, and they will tell you how much their local economies have picked up since oil and gas activity began surging on the Peninsula. Alaskans eager to take advantage of the economic boom have launched new businesses, hiring hundreds of locals eager to meet the needs of the newly revitalized industry. The Alaska Support Industry Alliance, a trade organization made up of small businesses that supply Alaska’s natural resource industries, has seen its membership grow on the Kenai Peninsula by 50 percent in just four years. More opportunity and prosperity for Alaskans, combined with a secure supply of energy, is the recipe for continued economic growth in an area previously depressed. None of these positive developments would have been possible without strong state and local leadership. Had I not taken quick, decisive action to protect Southcentral residents a few years ago, the circumstances could have been costly and unsafe. I’m proud of the work we did to breathe new life into Cook Inlet and to provide a secure energy future for the residents who call Southcentral Alaska home. This is my record. This is what Alaskans can count on with Parnell-Sullivan. We’re committed to building the right support for decisive actions that provide opportunity for Alaskans. Parnell is the governor of Alaska running for reelection.

Gasline an important part of the governor's race

The governor race in Alaska has taken an interesting turn with independent Republican Bill Walker jumping out of his party and platform to team with Byron Mallott, the Democrats' candidate aligned with Sen. Mark Begich and President Obama. If this alliance wins, then it will have a major impact on the ongoing gasline projects. Some say that this race is now reminiscent of the Palin or Hickel races, but there are major differences. Sarah Palin ran against proven corruption in the Legislature and won with the conservative populist vote, never abandoning party or principles. Hickel ran a conservative campaign against a liberal Republican opponent. Walker is running a liberal populist campaign based on an appeal to perceived evils in our successful oil and gas industry. He believes the state should just take over many facets of the industry, reminiscent of third world nationalization. He’s running against an incumbent governor whose optimism and focus on increasing oil production and a gasline have created an economic boom with jobs increasing every year. We currently have a gasline deal moving forward with buy-in from the producers and approval of the Legislature. From an energy perspective, the most important issue that the next governor will address is a gasline project. Bill Walker has for many years been a driving force behind the Alaska Gasline Port Authority, established in 1999 by the Fairbanks North Star Borough, the North Slope Borough and the City of Valdez. It was created to support a gasline effort, and early on chose to support the one that the voters had asked for that year, the line to Valdez. That project never garnered the support that was necessary to see it to fruition. Other gas projects were later proposed and gained political backing. Walker’s Port Authority chose a scorched earth policy, working to defeat many proposals that weren’t their own. They advertised with public dollars and personally lobbied the Legislature and administration to kill all other gas projects, instead of modifying their plan to fit the new situation. Personally, I’ve always been a supporter of the line to Valdez, and voted for Walker in 2010 because I thought that the specific gasline was the defining issue. What I don’t understand is refusing to adapt when the situation changed, delaying the chance for a gasline, due to a desire for a particular plan. Sometimes perfect is the enemy of good. Consider the following questions: How is Walker going to advance the gasline project that is already in motion? The Alaska LNG project, a project to construct a gasline and the facilities to export gas and provide for Alaska’s energy needs, has achieved cooperation with the oil companies and they have been doing field work for it all summer. The planned route goes to Nikiski, on the Kenai Peninsula, not Walker’s hometown of Valdez, and the environmental impact statement work is underway. There are more negotiations still to be done. How will a man who has consistently worked for the last 15 years for a specific project to Valdez and against all others handle those negotiations? How will he make the win-win deal that is needed in our free enterprise system to advance a gasline, when he has taken an adversarial position with the oil companies, going so far as to sue the state after the Point Thomson settlement took place? This settlement that would supply the gas for a line has caused the oil companies to invest billions in infrastructure and had 700 people working this summer. If Walker mandates a change from what was previously approved and intended by the legislature, how will he be able to get legislative approval? For most of Alaska, a gasline is just an important source of future revenue, but for us in Fairbanks it is life or death, as many of our long-time citizens are leaving for places with cheaper utility bills. Sean Parnell helped the Interior by proposing and supporting the Interior Energy Project to truck gas to Fairbanks. This is a bridge project that will prove helpful, but does not diminish the need for a long-term solution such as a gasline. If you examine the record of the candidates then it’s pretty easy to see that the choice you’ll make in November is Walker or a natural gas pipeline. Lance Roberts is an engineer, born and raised in Fairbanks. He is a member of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly. The views expressed here are his own and do not represent the assembly or borough administration.

Is Begich this afraid of Dan Sullivan?

It sure didn’t take long for the Alaska U.S. Senate race to turn ugly. The charges traded so far between incumbent Sen. Mark Begich and former Attorney General and Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan over carbon taxes, Alaska residency and the permitting process look like love taps compared to the downright awful attack ad the Begich campaign briefly ran and was forced to pull on Sept. 1. Perhaps stung by recent Sullivan press releases noting increases in violent crime in Anchorage during Begich’s tenure as mayor, the campaign unleashed a shot against Sullivan blaming him for the early release of felon Jerry Active and the eventual heinous crimes he will stand trial for this fall. Active is accused in the 2013 sexual assault of a two-year-old and the murder of the child’s grandparents in Anchorage. But rather than hit his target, Begich shot himself in the foot. The ad wasn’t rooted in anything resembling the truth but was born out of apparent desperation. Sullivan was able to easily counter the attack by noting he wasn’t even attorney general when the error that led to Active’s release was made. Begich stood by the ad until an irate letter from the victims’ family attorney stated Begich’s ad “shocked them,” was “tearing the family apart” and made them want to leave the state forever. The Democrat Senatorial Campaign Committee response to Begich pulling the ad rated “Pants on Fire” by Poltifact was to laughably attack Sullivan for pulling his own response ad that obliterated the baseless charge. All of this begs the question: Is Mark Begich really this scared of Dan Sullivan? Is this how low he is willing to go to save his Senate seat? Unfortunately we now know the answer. An ad like this one based on lies and exploiting the victims of horrific acts produced by any candidate, especially by an incumbent, can only be seen as a sign of weakness. Mark Begich may not like it that ads against him note that he votes with President Barack Obama 97 percent of the time, but that’s true. He may not like it that he’s been attacked for signing a letter supporting a price on emissions and for voting against an amendment that would have required a 60-vote threshold to approve a carbon tax, but that’s also true. A carbon tax that is “revenue neutral” by redistributing the revenue to American households — as Begich defended it — is still a tax. Whether he agreed with “100 percent” of the letter he signed is irrelevant. The fact is he signed it. He may not like it being pointed out that his mere presence in the Senate enables the leadership of the equally truth-ambivalent Harry Reid and the Democratic agenda that is destructive to Alaska, but that’s true, too. He may not like it that Sullivan is attacking him for not signing an agreement to attempt to limit Outside spending in their race, but the fact is he won’t while he reaps the benefits of millions from Reid’s SuperPAC and its attacks on Sullivan. We haven’t even gotten to Begich’s refusal to admit where he stood on Ballot Measure 1 to repeal the oil tax reform passed in 2013 that was defeated in the Aug. 19 primary. We can be forgiven for noting the hypocrisy of refusing to take a stand on the biggest issue of the year even after he was perfectly willing to come out against the Pebble mine in January. The attacks on Begich to date have been well within the realm of political hardball even if they can be argued on the margins. Politics is not, as they say, beanbag. It’s also not supposed to be a no-holds barred death match featuring low blows and eye gouging. Maybe Begich does have reason to be afraid of losing if the worst of the true things he can find to say about Sullivan are that he’s supported by pro-economic growth, small government organizations and that he hasn’t been in Alaska as long as Mead Treadwell’s mayonnaise. That’s still no excuse for making honesty the first casualty of his campaign. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

AJOC EDITORIAL: Wielechowski keeps digging

Democrat Sen. Bill Wielechowski has a response to my editorial from last issue. It’s at this link, so go ahead and read it first. I’ll wait. OK, you’re back. A week after his misleading characterization of the ConocoPhillips second quarter earnings report was exposed here, he wastes no time repeating his faulty grip on the facts in the very first sentence. Sen. Wielechowski alleges that an “entire column” was spent “trying to dispute that Alaska is a very profitable place to do business for the oil industry.” As usual, Wielechowski has it wrong. It was never disputed that Alaska is profitable for the oil industry. Nor was it disputed that ConocoPhillips makes $34 per barrel in Alaska. What was disputed was Wielechowski’s declaration that Alaska is a more profitable place to produce oil than the Lower 48. He conveniently fails to acknowledge in his response that it was pointed out ConocoPhillips makes more than $40 per barrel in the Lower 48. North Slope oil sells for $109 per barrel and Lower 48 oil sells for $94 per barrel, so that means ConocoPhillips has a 31.1 percent margin in Alaska and a 42.5 percent margin or better in the Lower 48. The bottom line is ConocoPhillips makes more per barrel of oil in the Lower 48 than it does in Alaska even at a lower price. On oil. I emphasize “on oil” because Wielechowski cannot credibly cite references such as chairing the Resources Committee or reading a lot of financial reports while continuing to wrongly conflate barrels of oil with barrels of oil equivalent. I won’t use the space again to explain why this is all kinds of wrong, but I have to flag Wielechowski’s assertion regarding the Lower 48 that ConocoPhillips “made the poor choice to invest in a place where oil sells for a lower price and where they find more gas than oil.” He then wonders, if he were a shareholder, why ConocoPhillips “keeps investing in a place where oil sells for much less and where they keeping finding less profitable natural gas while looking for oil, such that it drags down their total profits by so much.” For someone who says he admires what the oil industry does, he sure has a low opinion of how ConocoPhillips grosses more than $2.5 billion and spends more than $1.3 billion per quarter in the Lower 48. His implication is that the company is spending billions per year drilling holes without knowing whether gas or oil is going to come out. That $1.3 billion figure cited here last week — the spending Wielechowski claims is dragging down profits — is for capital expenditures. Those are different from operating expenses. Capital expenditures are investments in increased future capacity as compared to operating expenses that sustain existing production. How does Wielechowski imagine that CP is spending this much money per quarter on cap-ex? Where does he think the “skyrocketing production” in the future is going to come from? Unlike the federal government, ConocoPhillips doesn’t have a printing press. It seems strange to have to state the obvious to someone who says he has a degree in finance, but the company is reinvesting its revenue. Reinvesting revenue reduces taxable income. Reducing taxable income reduces net income, or profits. In Wielechowski’s bizarro financial world, though, a company that has $1.3 billion in revenue to reinvest every quarter isn’t profitable. In the real world, that is how companies grow. It’s how real people have jobs. It is certainly a strange take for someone who claims he wants ConocoPhillips to reinvest its revenue in Alaska. By his logic, it would be a “poor choice” for ConocoPhillips to invest in an Alaska natural gas pipeline. Speaking of cap-ex and future production, Wielechowski claims I didn’t address his statement about ConocoPhillips telling investors production was going to keep declining in Alaska. I actually quoted that paragraph, like his entire Aug. 1 press release, word for word. He can go back and read it. Maybe he was mad and didn’t finish the entire column, but his response doesn’t address the fact that ConocoPhillips capital expenditures have increased 47.7 percent in Alaska so far this year, from $545 million in 2013 to $805 million in 2014. He does however claim that the 10-year production forecast accounts for “all of the supposed new production from SB 21.” I’ve avoided calling anything else of Wielechowski’s a lie, but this statement is, and he knows it. The note accompanying the forecast explicitly states that a full year of SB 21 won’t be accounted for until December. There is almost nothing in the state’s April forecast that includes production from SB 21, as it had been in effect for only four months. Meanwhile, as Wielechowski points to a hypothetical number 10 years away, we have an actual number this year that shows the production decline was 0 for the first time in more than a decade. Talk about sticking your head in the sand. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

Editorial misses the mark, state deserves fair share from oil

Last week, Andrew Jensen of the Journal of Commerce spent an entire column trying to dispute that Alaska is a very profitable place to do business for the oil industry, even under SB 21. Recently, ConocoPhillips released its second quarter financial results. For years, since I was the Co-Chair of the Senate Resources Committee, I’ve made it a point to analyze these results so Alaskans can have a better understanding of whether Alaska is indeed a profitable place to do business. The oil and gas leases require oil companies to produce our oil when they can make a reasonable profit. I admire the work the oil industry does. I also understand they have a fiduciary duty to make as much money for their shareholders as they can. As legislators, we have a constitutional obligation to get the maximum benefit for Alaskans from the sale of our natural resources. While some would prefer that we simply believe the $13 million the oil industry has already spent in advertisements on ballot measure one, I believe it’s our responsibility to dig a little deeper. Unfortunately, the oil industry has long refused to provide the legislature much financial information. For years Exxon has testified Alaska needs to cut its taxes yet has flat out refused to say during committee hearings how much profit they even make in Alaska. Our experts have expressed shock at how little information the State gets from the oil companies so that we can manage our leases properly. And Republican-controlled legislative majorities have refused to pass legislation so we can even get access to this information. So we are left with analyzing oil company financial reports. Any objective analysis of those reports shows that Alaska was an extremely profitable place to do business under ACES. While Mr. Jensen may not think so, even oil company executives have admitted that. For example, on March 23, 2011, during an investor conference call, Greg Garland, Senior Vice President at ConocoPhillips, said Alaska had “strong cash margins” that were “higher than average” and Alaska investments offered “very good rates of return.” Of course, this is very different than what they have been telling Alaskans. So back when ACES was being developed, we hired a company that worked predominantly for oil companies to figure out what the oil industry rates of return and profits were at Prudhoe Bay. Experts and attorneys have told us that if an oil company can make a 10-30 percent rate of return, it should be developing our oil. The numbers under ACES according to Gov. Parnell’s experts: a 123 percent rate of return at $80 barrel oil at Prudhoe. Slope-wide rates of 55 percent for incumbent producers. Compare this to what Gov. Parnell’s experts have told us about our “competitors”: Norway (15 percent), Canada (15 percent), and North Dakota (25 percent). It’s hardly a surprise then that it’s been estimated that BP, ConocoPhillips & Exxon made over $40 billion in profits under ACES. In my press release, I noted that “Conoco’s Alaska profits per barrel rose from $29 in 2012 to $31 in 2013 to $34 so far in 2014.” This is data directly from the nonpartisan Alaska Legislative Research Agency. I also noted the Agency’s finding that in the Lower 48 and Latin America, ConocoPhillips made about $6 per barrel of oil equivalent.  All 100 percent factual data. Mr. Jensen pointed out that ConocoPhillips produces more gas in the Lower 48, which sells for less, and also noted that oil prices were lower in the Lower 48 than Alaska. While these are true, it completely misses the point. It is not Alaska’s fault ConocoPhillips made the poor choice to invest in a place where oil sells for a lower price and where they find more gas than oil. These are things that make Alaskan investments that much more attractive. If I were a ConocoPhillips investor, I’d be quite frankly wondering why ConocoPhillips keeps investing in a place where oil sells for much less and where they keep finding less profitable gas while looking for oil, such that it drags down their total profits by so much. And those total profits are very important: while ConocoPhillips reported producing 191,000 barrels a day of crude oil in the Lower 48, 21,000 barrels a day more than it produced in Alaska, it made $363 million more in Alaska. This is not some sort of one-time fluke. ConocoPhillips made billions more in Alaska under ACES than it did in the Lower 48 during the same time frame. But if Mr. Jensen has heartburn comparing Alaska’s $34.36 profit per barrel to the Lower 48’s $6.21 (up from $4.21 in 2013), let’s compare it to Canada, where ConocoPhillips made $10.54 per barrel. Or Europe, where Conoco made $15.50 per barrel. Or Asia Pacific/Middle East, where Conoco made $27.40. Or Conoco’s worldwide average profit per barrel of $14.69. Compared to Alaska’s $34.36. I won’t even get into the $2 per barrel profit BP agreed to in Iraq. In fact, Alaska routinely makes up about 12 percent of Conoco’s worldwide oil and gas production. Yet that 12 percent routinely generates about 25-35 percent of Conoco’s worldwide profits — in some years over 50 percent. Alaska, by any measure, was an extremely profitable place to do business under ACES. And we saw this by the oil companies’ actions. Oil company investment increased 70 percent under ACES to all-time highs every year. Jobs increased to all-time highs every year under ACES. And with Alaska getting our fair share for our oil, we were able to save $18 billion, improve our credit rating, and create 148,000 one-time jobs through building and maintaining our infrastructure all across Alaska. And there was a 383 percent increase in the number of oil company tax returns filed under ACES. Yes, production did decline under ACES. And we were told SB 21 would fix that. It hasn’t. Interestingly, Mr. Jensen’s editorial failed to mention the other part of my press release — the part that talked about Conoco recently admitting oil production will continue to decline in Alaska — while spiking everywhere else in the world. Gov. Parnell set a goal of 1 million barrels within 10 years, saying oil tax cuts were “vital.” He got his tax cuts. His latest estimate, as of April, including all the supposed new investments from SB 21 — 285,000 barrels per day. A 45 percent decline in the next decade. A bigger decline than was projected under ACES. The Legislative Finance Division is projecting Alaska will be broke within eight years under SB 21, even under curtailed spending. I can’t imagine Alaskans families and businesses will look forward to that day. SB 21 takes us back to a failed policy we had in place for 30 years, when we had a tax structure called ELF — with one of the lowest tax rates in the world. The philosophy was that low taxes would lead to more production, more jobs, and more investment. By 2006, 15 of 19 oil fields paid ZERO production taxes. How did it work? Oil production plummeted from 2 million barrels per day to 858,000 by 2006. At a time when oil was at all-time highs, jobs and investment dropped. Alaska lost hundreds of billions. The oil industry was harvesting oil out of Alaska as fast as it could and not reinvesting here, instead investing in places like Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez had a 95 percent tax rate and Libya, where Gaddafi charged a 95 percent tax rate. And the Journal editorial complains of Alaska’s now 50.3 percent tax rate under SB 21. I guess Mr. Jensen can continue to urge Alaskans to stick our heads in the sand and just believe what we are told in 30-second television commercials. I don’t think that would be in the best interests of Alaskans though. Senator Bill Wielechowski has served in the State Senate since 2007. He was co-chair of the Senate Resources Committee, and has a degree in Finance. Journal Managing Editor Andrew Jensen's response to Wielechowski can be read here.

Wielechowski blows it again on ConocoPhillips

If there is one thing Anchorage Democrat Sen. Bill Wielechowski is good for, it is providing column material with his reactions to ConocoPhillips earnings reports. This quarter is no different, and he definitely isn’t making the task any more difficult. • “Yesterday ConocoPhillips announced $627 million in 2nd quarter profits from their Alaska operations or nearly $7 million per day from Alaska alone. On an hourly basis that equates to almost $300,000 in profits each and every hour.” So? Here Wielechowski is simply trying to appeal to the dark impulse of envy in his audience. According to the report, the company paid an effective tax rate of 50.3 percent in Alaska for the quarter, so the government also made about $7 million per day and $300,000 per hour. Unlike ConocoPhillips, however, it didn’t have to do anything to make that money other than sit back and collect the checks. • “At the same time, they announced Lower 48 profits of only $265 million from a greater volume of crude oil production – 191,000 barrels per day in the Lower 48 compared to 170,000 in Alaska. “This proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Alaska remains one of the most profitable places in the world. Oil profits in Alaska are more than double what they are in the Lower 48.” It’s difficult to know where to begin with all the wrong here. The $265 million in profits for the Lower 48 does not just count profits from crude oil production; it also includes less profitable natural gas and natural gas liquids that account for nearly two-thirds of ConocoPhillips’ global production. More on this to come as Wielechowski erroneously compares per barrel oil profits versus per barrel of oil equivalent profits. Wielechowski also doesn’t tell you that Alaska North Slope crude fetched about $109 per barrel in the second quarter compared to about $94 per barrel in the Lower 48. You don’t have to be much of a financial guru to understand that a greater price can bring more revenue even at a lower production level. On a gross revenue level, ConocoPhillips made about $1.63 billion from oil in the Lower 48 and about $1.68 billion in Alaska. It will not take much of an increase in Lower 48 crude oil production before the gross revenue exceeds Alaska even with the North Slope price premium. Add in that the effective tax rate for Lower 48 operations is 38.7 percent compared to 50.3 percent in Alaska and it isn’t difficult to figure which jurisdiction is more profitable for oil production, as you’ll see below. • “Conoco’s Alaska profits per barrel rose from $29 in 2012 to $31 in 2013 to $34 so far in 2014. ‘While Alaskans face growing deficits and cuts to essential public services, the industry’s profits swell,’ said Senator Bill Wielechowski. ‘In the Lower 48 and Latin America, they make about $6 per barrel of oil equivalent. In Canada, they make about $10.50 per barrel. In Alaska this year, they are making $34 per barrel.’” Wielechowski continues to ignore the price for natural gas and liquids on a barrel of oil equivalent basis as if “equivalent” means gas and crude oil sell for the same price or have the same margins. There are 6,000 cubic feet, of 6 mcf, in one barrel of oil equivalent. At a price of $4.43 per mcf for the Lower 48 in the second quarter, ConocoPhillips received $26.58 per barrel of oil equivalent for natural gas sales. The only true comparison is the profit per barrel in Alaska versus the profit per barrel of oil in the Lower 48. According to a ConocoPhillips presentation to investors May 27, the company makes more than $40 per barrel from Lower 48 production. So, no, Alaska is not more profitable. He is also ignoring the capital expenses and the depreciation, depletion and amortization, or DD&A, that reduce ConocoPhillips’ Lower 48 taxable income. Out of ConocoPhillips’ daily global production of nearly 1.6 million BOE, 605,000 barrels per day was from crude oil and about 6 billion cubic feet per day was from natural gas products. Boosted by more than $1.6 billion in oil revenue, the company spent more than $1.3 billion on capital expenditures in the second quarter and took DD&A of $939 million in the Lower 48, where it produced about 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. Those deductions based on large capital expenditures reduced its Lower 48 taxable income to about $434 million. Again, you don’t have to be an accountant to see that ConocoPhillips mostly a gas company, so comparing oil profits in Alaska with natural gas profits in the Lower 48 is nonsensical. • “Wielechowski noted that Conoco’s Alaska profits rose even as their Alaska production fell.  ConocoPhillips produced six thousand barrels per day more in the same quarter last year, but made $42 million more this 2nd quarter than last.” Wielechowski must have really, really hoped nobody else read the earnings report. In fact, ConocoPhillips’ income in the second quarter last year was $682 million compared to the $627 million this year. It is only after a one-time settlement writedown of $97 million in that same quarter last year that net income decreases relative to this quarter. One-time expenditures are irrelevant to a year-to-year income comparison, so he is just full of it on this one. • “’They call it the More Alaska Production Act, but really it should be called the Make Alaska Poor Act,’ he said.  Had Senate Bill 21 been in effect for the past six years, Alaskans would have lost $8.5 billion, according to the Parnell Administration.” Alaska lost a cumulative 80 million barrels of production in the past six years, also according to the Parnell Administration. • “Despite television commercials ConocoPhillips and others have been running trying to convince Alaskans they plan to increase oil production in Alaska, ConocoPhillips recently told a group of investors it actually plans on continued decreasing production in Alaska. In that same presentation, ConocoPhillips touted plans for skyrocketing production in the Lower 48, Latin America, Canada and Europe. (see attached slide)” Yet again, Wielechowski was really hoping nobody fact-checked him. On Page 2 (yes, Page 2), of the ConocoPhillips earnings release it states relative to Alaska: “In an effort to increase production and as part of the increasing investment in Alaska, we signed a contract to build a new rotary drilling rig for the Kuparuk River Unit with drilling expected to commence in early 2016.” Even in the slide he cites, it shows ConocoPhillips planning to add about 40,000 barrels per day in new projects in Alaska to keep production close to 200,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (this includes the resumption of LNG exports from Nikiski, which accounts for about 23,000 BOE per day in its earnings in the second quarter). • “Meanwhile, as Alaska’s savings accounts are being rapidly depleted, Wielechowski noted that ConocoPhillips just this month announced a 6% increase in its quarterly dividend to shareholders. ‘It would appear that instead of reinvesting in Alaska to increase oil production, the windfall profits are simply going back to ConocoPhillips’ shareholders,’ Senator Wielechowski lamented.” Aww, he lamented. Sad face. If he’d bothered to do any math whatsoever, he could have calculated that the dividend increase amounts to an additional $50 million per quarter. Meanwhile, ConocoPhillips’ capital spending in Alaska has increased by $260 million in the first half of 2014 compared to the first half of 2013. What that means is that even if ConocoPhillips made an extra $42 million this quarter compared to last (which it didn’t), the company has invested more than six times that much into Alaska projects this year versus what it spent last year. And they didn’t even need a law telling them to do it. The only thing worth lamenting is that Wielechowski and his ilk are trying to sway an election with this kind of garbage. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

SB 21 is a bad deal for Alaska

In the oil revenue debate we’ve heard and read misleading statements and distorted facts. As long time Alaska residents, business owners, and grandparents, we are very concerned about Alaska’s future economy. The “Vote No on Proposition One” group paints an “almost too good to be true” picture if Senate Bill 21 prevails in August. The group repeatedly alludes to Alaska’s partnership with the oil companies, assuring us that this new deal, SB 21, will result in more jobs as well as economic growth. Although this paints a rosy picture, it also raises questions. Does this partnership have Alaska’s best interests in their long range planning? Will this “partnership” with Alaska develop a plan for future sustainable, safe energy for Alaskans? How can Alaska’s government, mandated by its Constitution to develop its resources for the maximum benefit of Alaskans, partner with corporations, mandated to provide profits for their shareholders? Do they share revenue information with Alaska? Can we rely on the oil companies for a good deal? In the past, foreign corporations exploited Alaska’s rich natural wealth with projects that harvested Alaska’s wealth but left little for Alaska.  The Kennecott Copper Mine is one example. Alaska’s past “boom and bust” economy resulted in resource extraction solely for exploitation and profit with no concern for permanent growth and development. That remains the same today. The state now faces huge deficits if we continue to sell our oil to multinational corporations at bargain prices. Alaska, under SB 21, receives less revenue than other owner states. The glossy ads, paid by the oil corporations, fail to compare their share of the profit in Iraq or Mexico to their share of the profit from Alaska’s oil. These multinational corporations, along with their CEOs, investors and stockholders, have been the beneficiaries of Alaska’s oil for many decades. At a recent Chamber of Commerce debate, oil and gas attorney Craig Richards pointed out the decline in pipeline throughput of oil characterizes aging fields. The solution lies in new production, exploring and developing new fields and pools in existing fields. Reports show Alaska has substantially more oil in the ground and will be able to produce for years to come. Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share encourages this kind of development. SB 21 rewards increasing the rate of extraction from the old, declining fields. Mr. Richards pointed out much of last year’s increased activity required long range planning. Oil rigs had already been bought and shipped to Alaska under ACES. “Vote No” says we want to go back to a flawed law. Darn right we do. We want to make a good law better and return to a law (ACES) from which Alaska received $8.5 billion more than it would have under SB21. As business owners, we want audits of the state’s oil revenues and unbiased research made available to our elected citizen representatives. Our legislators require accurate, up to date accountability to make informed decisions. As an owner-state Alaska needs that information. Alaskans must take a principled stand no matter our political affiliation. We will not have a democratic, citizen-represented government if we continue to allow multinationals to dominate our government, our laws, our policies, and our elections. “Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.” — Thomas Jefferson 1788 The repeal of SB21 will put Alaskans on the path to “setting things right.” We can empower our legislators to represent the resource owners, not the oil companies. In the August 19th Primary election, we will use the strongest voice we have. Thirteen million dollars have already been spent to sway your vote. Please make your decision based on fact, not money-fueled ads, glossy fliers, and glitzy infomercials. Vote Yes on Proposition One for Alaska’s long-term best interests. Hal Gazaway attended grade school in the territory of Alaska and high school in the state of Alaska. After nine years as an Assistant Attorney General and Administrative Law Judge, he went into his own law practice in Anchorage. Barbara Gazaway had a long career in education, teaching music at all levels elementary through University. She taught in the European DOD schools, Pennsylvania, Utah, California, and Alaska. She now teaches piano and works part time as a legal assistant.

Production is the only number that matters

Those driving the effort to repeal oil tax reform on the Aug. 19 primary ballot like to talk numbers, but the only one that matters is the one they can’t talk about: production. They will point to state revenues under ACES, or jobs or corporate profits during a time of record-high oil prices. What they won’t talk about is the 6 percent annual production decline under ACES that was zeroed out this past fiscal year after just six months of oil tax reform being in effect. What they won’t talk about is the steep decline in drilling in the first year after ACES and an eventual bottoming out in the average number of working rigs from about 10 before ACES to just 6 in 2011. They won’t talk about an all-time high of 17 rigs working during February this year, or that an average of 11 were working throughout this winter season when Slope activity traditionally spikes because of the ability to move heavy equipment around the frozen tundra. The most rigs working during any single week last winter was just 10, and the weekly average was 8. Of course, the repeal supporters will claim that all this new Slope activity was planned under ACES and is somehow proof Sarah Palin’s plan worked. What nonsense. ACES was in effect from 2008 to 2013 and if producers were in any way incentivized to stem the annual decline we would have seen them do it long before the first six months of this year. It may take years of planning to develop a new field in the NPR-A, but it certainly doesn’t take six years to mobilize a rig for a well workover or to drill a new one in a producing field such as Kuparuk. Oil that isn’t produced doesn’t benefit anyone in Alaska. Reverting to a policy that keeps oil in the ground certainly doesn’t satisfy the Alaska Constitution requirement that resources be developed for the maximum benefit of its people. The only time the repeal supporters want to talk about production is when they point to the Revenue Department forecast for 10 years from now. What they never mention is that the forecast is based in no small part on the production decline that took place under ACES and barely accounts for the current tax policy at all. They are shamelessly trying to convince voters that the projected decline is based on oil tax reform instead of what it is actually based on: their preferred, and failed, policy called ACES. They know this is dishonest, but they are doing it anyway. When the proponents of repealing tax reform aren’t spinning numbers or ignoring the inconvenient ones such as production or drilling, they just make them up. A July 28 press release from Vic Fisher claimed that “125,000 jobs were created” under ACES. Twisting facts and personal attacks have been central to the repeal effort as they attempt to gin up anger as a motive to vote “yes,” but this claim is so far out it may as well have come from Pluto. According to the Alaska Department of Labor, the state had 316,900 jobs at the end of 2007, the last year before ACES took effect. At the end of 2013, the final year of ACES, the state had 335,800 jobs. That’s a difference of fewer than 19,000 jobs gained and certainly nowhere close to Fisher’s claim of 125,000 jobs created under ACES. Among those gains, more than twice as many jobs were created in health care (6,200) than were created in the oil and gas sector (2,600). Even conceding the point that jobs and Slope spending increased under ACES, the key question that repeal supporters cannot answer is this: Why didn’t production keep pace? The repeal supporters want voters to believe that the Slope decline is inevitable and that we should tax what’s left of “our oil” to the maximum level possible. It is a sad but unsurprising position from the believers in Big Government that they interpret the state Constitution’s “maximum benefit” clause only in terms of tax revenue and PFDs instead of measuring it by production growth and paychecks. We have seen a conclusive demonstration in the last year that the decline is not inevitable. In fact, far from it. The first step toward growing production is stopping the decline. That has now been achieved, and there is no shortage of new projects and legacy field expansions underway that have finally put the state in a position to see annual increases in production instead of the decline that accelerated under ACES. The people who want you to vote “yes” on 1 are running a cynical campaign based on emotion and falsehoods because that’s all they have. The cold, hard, indisputable evidence that matters — increased production and drilling — is what they don’t want you to consider because it makes the case clear to vote “no” on 1. Andrew Jensen can be reached [email protected]

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