JUNEAU -- A co-chairman of the Senate Resources Committee on Tuesday questioned Gov. Sean Parnell's plan to cut oil taxes and how that fits with Parnell's goal of boosting production to 1 million barrels a day.
Sen. Joe Paskvan, D-Fairbanks, said in a release that if additional production toward that goal comes from federal lands or offshore, cutting oil production taxes on state land would just give oil companies "billions of dollars per year in additional revenue, with little benefit to Alaskans." At the center of this is congressional testimony given last year by Kevin Banks, then director of Alaska's oil and gas division. Banks testified that there are no known conventional resources on state or Native lands likely sufficient to replace the decline in existing production rates, making access to offshore and on federal lands important. Paskvan wanted to know if Banks stood behind his statements.
"This is a critically important issue in the oil tax debate, and it is our fiduciary responsibility to make policy decisions that are based on the best possible information," Paskvan said in the release. "In order to fully understand the potential benefits of a tax reduction, the Legislature needs to know if Mr. Banks' statements to the congressional committee were accurate."
Paskvan wrote Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan in February, seeking, among other things, greater clarity on Banks' comments. He'd written Banks too several days ago. Banks is still with the Department of Natural Resources.
Sullivan responded Tuesday, the day Paskvan made his concerns public with a news release. He noted in the letter that Paskvan didn't raise any of those issues when the two spoke before Sullivan's presentation on natural gas Saturday.
Sullivan, in his letter, said Banks' overall testimony was intended to stress the importance of how federal policies were "negatively impacting industry access" to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and offshore resources. The refuge is currently off-limits to drilling.
"No one has argued that production of conventional oil from state land is the only source of the new oil production that would be required to achieve the governor's goal of a million barrels of throughput in a decade," Sullivan wrote. "We have always understood that onshore and offshore federal production is part of the solution."
When asked by Paskvan if he agrees that state tax policy doesn't drive investment decisions to federal lands and offshore, Sullivan said federal lands "are not a shelter from the state's tax policies and the policies will factor in decisions to invest here. ... A more attractive state policy makes Alaska a more attractive place for investment on state and federal lands."