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Energy

Alaska group seeking to raise oil taxes sues state, claiming ‘inaccuracies’ in review

  • Author: Alex DeMarban
  • Updated: November 16
  • Published November 15

The group behind a ballot measure aiming to boost taxes paid by major oil producers in Alaska is suing the state, asserting that officials did not provide a “true and impartial” summary of the proposal it certified.

Vote Yes for Alaska’s Fair Share filed the 12-page complaint in Anchorage Superior Court on Thursday. It names the Division of Elections and Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, who last month certified the ballot measure, allowing backers to begin gathering signatures needed to put it on the 2020 election ballot.

The suit was filed by Robin Brena, chair of the initiative committee and an oil and gas attorney who has provided most of the group’s funding.

The complaint argues that in a summary of the measure, Meyer relied on an opinion from Attorney General Kevin Clarkson that went beyond helping determine whether it meets constitutional and statutory requirements.

The complaint says the summary contains “inaccuracies” that improperly describe the proposed act, including using language suggesting it could impact more companies than it is designed to affect.

“This (lawsuit) is about correcting this language so when people go into the ballot box they have a true and impartial summary of the act,” Brena said.

The disputed language is found on the front page of petition booklets, but signature gatherers are showing people the proposed act itself and the group’s accurate description of it, Brena said.

The complaint argues that “with often contradictory and confused analyses, the attorney general’s opinion raises and then refuses to opine on several potential, future constitutional and legal issues unrelated to whether the Fair Share Act meets the constitutional and statutory requirements to advance the ballot.”

If approved by voters, the “Fair Share Act" would bring in about $1 billion extra in production taxes, supporters say. They say it would apply to companies that produce oil from the North Slope’s large, legacy fields — currently Prudhoe Bay, Kuparuk and Alpine. The supporters are trying to garner 28,501 signatures from election districts across Alaska to meet the deadline for next year’s election.

The Fair Share group unsuccessfully tried to correct the summary, the complaint says. It adds that Meyer and the Division of Elections declined to meet or discuss the review with the group.

Cori Mills, a spokeswoman with the state Department of Law, said Friday afternoon the state has “not been served with the complaint yet and only just found out about the lawsuit.”

"We will need to review the complaint before determining a response,” she said.

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