Alaska regulator taking public comments on Hilcorp-BP deal through Friday

Alaskans have until 5 p.m. Friday to write the state’s utility regulator about the pending BP-Hilcorp deal. The multibillion-dollar transaction, which would significantly change Alaska’s oil industry, has garnered few comments so far.

According to records kept by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, only five Alaskans have submitted comments, all urging the commission to extend the comment period to allow public input. State law requires a minimum of 21 days, and the comment period opened Oct. 4.

There had been technical problems with the comment system, but Grace Salazar, the commission’s public liaison, said those problems have been fixed and Alaskans can use the commission’s online system again. She said the commission is considering whether to extend the comment period in light of public requests and those problems.

The RCA’s duty is to determine whether utilities and pipeline operators are operating safely under terms and conditions (including rates) that are fair to customers and the utilities. In the case of the BP-Hilcorp deal, the RCA’s primary responsibility covers pipelines and ownership duties, Salazar said.

In one of the comments, environmentalist Richard Steiner has urged the commission to make Hilcorp’s financial documents public in order to allow greater understanding of the deal.

Salazar said that after the public comment period ends, the commission would then consider whether to deem the companies’ application complete or whether more information is needed. Only after that determination would commissioners actually consider the proposal.