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OIL, GAS DEAL SHOULD SHOW 'MAXIMUM BENEFIT FOR ALL ALASKANS'

Sarah Palin
Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman Spectrum (Editorial)
Mar. 19, 2006

Alaskans deserve an atmosphere of trust in government. But broken promises, averted eyes from ethical lapses, booted-out conscientious state employees, and things like the governor's jet are the much-ballyhooed issues that illustrate the disconnect between established politicians and the rest of us.

Hopefully though, as we consider the most important economic issues facing Alaska in decades, may these aforementioned reminders of things amiss share ink so we can debate additional issues that are also of utmost importance. As obstinate as the jet purchase is, oil taxes and secret gasline deals must be a focus now.

Under way in Juneau are long overdue oil tax revisions. Legislators are analyzing the governor's proposal to amend ELF and are dealing with multinational corporations on tax packages that were put together behind closed doors. We're warned this may be a long, tumultuous battle.

We're told the proposals involve complex new terms, credits, and formulas, and as the former chairman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, I know these issues can be difficult to keep up with, considering the industry's areas of expertise and public-relations influence.

Industry negotiators are some of the sharpest professionals on earth, with decades of experience dedicated to their company's bottom line. Our negotiators are citizen legislators or political appointees who sometimes are dependent on industry for their next job.

It may look like we're outgunned at the table, but thankfully we can compete because we've got supremely powerful ammunition. It's called the Alaska Constitution, and it provides our strength as we deal with corporations whose ultimate goal is to make themselves maximum profit and leave as little behind.

I respect industry's contributions to our economy as it pumps our oil, gets it to market and makes mind-boggling profit off our resources. I personally appreciate the blue-collar job opportunities industry provides. I am, in fact, married to a Slope worker, so I'm not out to bash industry, nor do I expect officials to use a hammer in negotiations. But I do expect us to stop acting weak and confused and just do the right thing for Alaskans, via our Constitution.

Here's what the Constitution says: Negotiate for the maximum benefit of all Alaskans. Period. That must be the objective. It really is that straightforward.

Officials can make this easier on themselves by committing to not let politics, cronyism or campaign cash get in the way of this objective. I'd remind officials if they find themselves struggling or confused, please simply reflect on the guidance provided by Alaska's founders.

Remember one's oath of office where one is sworn to defend the unequivocal terms mandating development and conservation of natural resources for the maximum benefit of all Alaskans. Not outside interests, but Alaska's interests.

I implore officials to negotiate from our position of strength. As former governor Walter Hickel wrote, “Legislators should simply hold up a copy of Article VIII and say, ‘I swore to uphold this document, I'll keep my promise'.” Legislators need only defend the public's interest and they'll inherently do what's right.

It's amazing to consider the perspective our founding fathers had when crafting the Constitution. An astute Alaskan recently said, “It's almost like they knew to protect something they didn't even know existed yet.” What they knew to protect may not have been fathomed in their wildest dreams whilst writing the document, but I believe their concerns are manifesting today with these negotiations.

Alaskans deserve to be listened to as our resources are on the table. Our message to officials: use restraint, don't rush decisions that have long-lasting impacts. Don't tie oil taxes to a gasline contract that isn't even available for scrutiny.

More specifically to the governor: Trust the public with all the information. Don't let companies hide behind confidentiality, handing them control of our revenue by undefined terms and undeveloped credits. Don't give retroactive credits to stimulate investment decisions made years before, as “retroactive incentive” is an oxymoron. Make financial models public.

Simply, let us trust you to uphold your oath to defend our Constitution.


Sarah Palin
Former Wasilla Mayor
Former Chair, Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission
Republican Candidate for Governor

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