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Shannyn Moore: Alaska again needs to stand up against blind faith in industry

Shannyn Moore
OPINION: Columnist Shannyn Moore remembers how many times Alaskans have had faith in hollow promises of the oil industry, and urges Alaskans to vote yes on Ballot Measure One. Pictured: Spill workers cleaning a beach after the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill. Courtesy Alaska State Archives

I listened to a public radio story this week about Anchorage neighbors and their sign war. They are friends who trade snow plow work for boat storage space but can’t talk about the most important vote for Alaskans in my lifetime. Instead, they keep making their signs taller and bigger.

Another woman had her “Yes on One” sign burned in her yard and a “No” one put beside it. I have friends who are on their fifth sign because they keep disappearing.

That’s what millions of dollars have bought and brought to our state. Sign wars -- millions of dollars' worth of printed ammo for neighbors to spar with. We’ve lost revenue as an owner state and now also the ability to discuss a topic vital to our communities.

People Outside don’t get political signs the way we do. They also don’t understand how folks from all sides show up at one place called “Election Central” downtown on election night. Part of that experience is to show we’re ready to work together, and harder next time.

You can tell the oil companies are getting desperate in their attempts to keep Alaska a colonial state. Personally attacking those who stand up for us. The president of the Chamber of Commerce took to Facebook to make a claim to “clean and gut” his opponent in a debate. What is this, the third grade? (Try to imagine him gutting a fish and try not to crack up.) The only thing cleaned and gutted have been the facts.

How do these guys sleep at night? (Hint: on pillows of money.)

It’s the classic case of the people versus the powerful. David versus Goliath.

They spend millions trying to say black is white. I can’t really blame them -- it’s all they can really do with the facts so overwhelmingly against them. The only way they can win is to try to confuse Alaskans.

I could spend a lot of words here trying to correct the broken record of the No on 1 crowd. It’s pretty easy but there are people like Parnell’s former oil and gas director, Kevin Banks, who have laid out the economic realities and are voting yes on 1.

My question is, who do you believe?

Who do you trust?

This decision shouldn’t be a faith-based one -- but the oil companies are hoping you’ll just trust them and not look at the facts.

Who is incentivized to tell you what is really better for the future of Alaska -- those who have been here for the long haul like Vic Fischer, who helped write our Constitution, or corporations run from Houston and London?

When was the last time a corporation spent millions of dollars to help you out at its own expense without a court order?

In 1989, Exxon spilled millions of gallons of oil in Prince William Sound. Exxon’s mouth Don Cornett showed up in Cordova to tell us, "You have had some good luck, and you don't realize it. You have Exxon, and we do business straight. We will consider whatever it takes to keep you whole." Well, if fighting Alaskans in court for decades and then paying them 10 cents on the dollar is some “good luck,” I’d hate to see bad luck.

They promised us for 30 years that some of the lowest oil taxes in the world would lead to more production. We lost tens of billions of dollars and oil production plummeted.

A judge found our Legislature guilty of “inexcusable trustfulness.” Why? Because they let the oil pipeline tariff rates get illegally jacked up by the companies in order to pay Alaska tens of billions less.

Who remembers the oil industry promises of "no decline after '99"? That was more than 500,000 barrels ago. In 2006, when the oil industry spent millions opposing a gas reserves tax. They said, if you want a gas line, vote no. We trusted them. We voted no. Eight years later, we are no closer to a gas line. Six months ago, an FERC judge found the oil companies guilty of “cavalier” waste -- in again trying to overcharge on tariffs.

Come Tuesday, we’ll know if the millions invested to confuse Alaskans into voting away their birthright as citizens of an Owner State worked or not. The divisiveness the oil companies put on their own tab shouldn’t be tolerated. We need one another -- winter is coming.

Shannyn Moore is a radio broadcaster.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.