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ALASKA, ABANDON GAS DEAL TO STAY FREE
Jun. 11, 2006
Alaska's constitution gave fresh meaning to Abraham Lincoln's famous
phrase "of the people, by the people and for the people." Through our
government, the people of Alaska own Alaska. That's why we call it the
As an owner, every Alaskan should take the time to study the terms of
the proposed gas line contract between the state and the major oil
companies. When you do, you will discover that it has the power to
change Alaska from the Owner State to the Company State.
I support a natural gas pipeline. But I don't support a bad deal. And
this is a bad deal.
The decisions about our most important resources will no longer be
made in Juneau. They will be made in London, England, and in Houston
and Irving, Texas.
Of all Alaska's gifts, rivaling the beauty of our land, Alaskans are
fortunate to have an almost unlimited supply of clean natural gas. Not
only is our gas abundant, it is the fuel of choice to help Alaska and
America live up to our environmental aspirations. Alaskans should make
the most of this gift.
We must guarantee that we can use our natural gas in-state to heat our
homes in Southcentral and elsewhere where current supplies are running
low and costs are climbing. We should use it to provide energy for our
We should turn it into propane for our villages, which are being
bankrupted by the high cost of fuel. And we should use the feedstocks
to create clean industries with high-paying jobs that produce valuable
products for the world.
To do this, we must stay in control. If this contract is approved,
those who sign it will sign away our future.
There is so much money involved, let's hope that the participants,
many of whom are my friends, will not be compromised. If that were to
happen, it would be the closest thing to the Teapot Dome Scandal in
You probably know the story of how Interior Secretary Albert Fall
leased the publicly owned Teapot Dome oil fields in Wyoming in 1922 to
oil man Harry Sinclair without competitive bidding. Secretary Fall
also took money on the side and ended up in jail.
The greatest mistake of the Murkowski administration has also been to
cut off all competition, letting the oil companies write their own
ticket. Other viable projects, including the all-Alaska line, have
never had a full and fair opportunity to compete.
Instead, the administration has negotiated a sole-source contract.
Behind closed doors, lawyers inside and outside the administration
have created a 780-page minefield that cannot be swept clean by a few
amendments. We have to start over with a level playing field.
The Legislature should reject this convoluted contract unanimously.
The deal doesn't guarantee in-state gas or jobs, and it robs the
Legislature of its constitutional responsibilities, such as the power
to tax, setting the stage for nearly endless legal challenges.
What's the rush? There is none. We should put gubernatorial politics
aside, and we should welcome all viable projects, most of which,
unlike the current contract, ask for no outrageous subsidies or the
abandonment of Alaska's sovereign rights.
Obviously, those legislators on the payroll of the parties to this
contract should recuse themselves and refrain from voting on it. If
they don't, come November, the voters should elect other candidates
who are completely aboveboard.
The future of Alaska is at stake, this great land that can be a model
for other commonly owned regions such as our neighbor Russia.
And the future of Alaska leadership is at stake. Alaska has produced
statesmen of all political persuasions such as Govs. Ernest Gruening,
Bill Egan and Jay Hammond. I ran against two of them for political
office, and we had strong differences of opinion. But I never
questioned their integrity or their loyalty. I knew they put Alaska first.
Legislators of today, stand with these giants. All Alaskans, stand
Alaska, stay free! Stay free!
Walter J. Hickel served as governor of Alaska from 1966 to 1968 and
1990 to 1994 and as U.S. secretary of the interior from 1969 to 1970.