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ALASKA, ABANDON GAS DEAL TO STAY FREE

Wally Hickel
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 Owner State.

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 businesses.

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 Alaska's history.

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 with them!

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.

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