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Energy

Group forms to fight Alaska oil tax initiative

OneAlaska will oppose the proposed ballot measure aiming to increase oil production taxes for some companies.

BP's Parker Rig 272, viewed from the Lisburne Production Center in Prudhoe Bay in May 2015. (Loren Holmes / ADN archive)

A new group calling itself OneAlaska has formed to fight a ballot initiative that seeks to boost production taxes paid by Alaska’s largest oil companies.

The group — consisting of small-business owners, a union leader, a Native corporation chair and others — filed with the Alaska Division of Elections this week, a statement from OneAlaska said Thursday.

The Alaska Oil and Gas Association, a trade group representing the industry, is a leading contributor to the group.

The chair is Chantal Walsh, former director of the state’s oil and gas division under previous Gov. Bill Walker.

“With several significant, new development projects in the works, adding a punitive new tax on companies that are trying to invest in Alaska is the wrong idea at the wrong time," Walsh said.

OneAlaska will oppose Vote Yes for Alaska’s Fair Share, which registered as a campaign group with state regulators in August. That group must collect 28,501 signatures from across Alaska in support of its two-page proposed “Fair Share Act." It hopes to get the measure on the ballot during next year’s election.

The proposal would alter the state’s 2014 oil production tax. It would apply to the North Slope’s large, legacy fields — currently Prudhoe Bay, Kuparuk and Alpine — held by major oil companies, according to Robin Brena, a member of the initiative committee leading the effort and an oil and gas attorney who worked on Gov. Walker’s transition team.

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Brena has said the measure would bring in about $1 billion extra in production taxes, if approved by voters. BP, the current operator of the Prudhoe Bay oil field, has estimated it could cost companies up to an extra $2 billion.

The industry paid $750 million in oil and gas production taxes in the 2018 fiscal year, according to state figures.

In an interview Thursday, Brena said Alaska is not getting enough in production taxes from the state’s major oil companies.

If voters approve the Fair Share initiative, Brena asserted the companies will still be very profitable in Alaska and more money will stay in the state, helping the economy, not hurting it.

The measure would require that tax returns and other documents from oil and gas producers would be public information, instead of confidential documents.

“Whether you agree with us, or disagree with us, that’s one thing,” he said. But Alaskans should have the chance to decide if they’re getting their fair share for oil production, he said.

Vote Yes for Alaska’s Fair Share reported in early October that it had raised just over $45,000. Brena is listed as the top donor with a $25,000 cash injection.

Co-chairs of the new group that will fight the measure include Crawford Patkotak, chair of Arctic Slope Regional Corp., which represents Alaska Natives from the oil-rich North Slope; Nicholas Begich III, a nephew of former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich; former Anchorage Rep. Jason Grenn, who served in the Legislature as an independent; Bill Popp, president of the Anchorage Economic Development Corp.; and Gary Dixon with Alaska Teamsters Local 959, which represents more than 5,000 people, including airline pilots, construction workers and truck drivers.

“The ballot box is the wrong place to enact complicated tax policy, especially policy that would damage our economy, both in Anchorage and statewide,” Popp said.