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Don't blame 'Big Oil' for failures of Alaska's leadership

  • Author: Joe Paskvan
  • Updated: June 29, 2016
  • Published May 8, 2014

I do not blame Big Oil for asking for too much from Alaska; I blame politicians including Gov. Sean Parnell for saying "yes" to giving away too much. A failure of leadership exists when full due diligence was not performed on SB21. I blame the governor for taking away any chance Alaska might have at high oil prices of receiving a fair share of windfall profits derived from the sale of Alaska's oil.

The destruction of revenue to Alaska appears an intentional part of Gov. Parnell's strategies and his administration. This destruction is an integral part of his HB110 and SB21 oil giveaway plans and his settlement with Exxon Mobil Corp. on Point Thomson. It is essential to SB138, the gas line giveaway. It is an integral part of the thinking of Joe Balash, the governor's Commissioner of Natural Resources who this year said during a confirmation hearing, "Frankly, taxing is stealing." The Balash statement, even if taken by some as tongue in cheek, supports the idea that the governor is bent on destroying income streams to Alaska. It is also consistent with denying Alaska the economic capacity to effectively police those who are extracting our non-renewable resources.

Wealth and control are shifted to the wealthiest and those who exercise control over this state. The oil businesses that receive this ever-growing wealth and control are already the wealthiest and most powerful on earth, and certainly in Alaska. Parnell's destructive tactics transfer the wealth and control over Alaska's non-renewable resources from the people of Alaska to multi-national, borders-don't-matter businesses. The Alaska Constitution is trampled.

Glaring examples of the internal destruction of Alaska's ability to defend itself are shown in Parnell's attempts to transfer Alaska's regulatory authority. Parnell wants two oil executives, including one from out-of-state, to be in charge of the State Assessment Review Board board that determines property taxation on the oil and gas industry. Truth will never see the light of day; secrecy will be their protection under "confidentiality" assertions. Parnell already fired one of the most competent Alaskans to try to make way for an out-of-stater with 30-plus years working for oil. Plus, Parnell wants SARB to give up its independence. Parnell wants the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. to have an Exxon executive in power. Parnell wants the boroughs to not have any say in taxation of the property that goes through our municipalities. HB77 submitted at "Request of the Governor" is referred to as the "Silence Alaskans Act." Parnell wants to make a merit-based judiciary, formed by our constitution at statehood, subject to and dependent upon political strength rather than merit. Parnell wants the fox to guard Alaska's henhouse. We all know what the end brings when control is transferred -- no more hens. Parnell wants oil to rule Alaska more than it already does. Don't blame Big Oil, blame the politicians who say 'yes' to too much giveaway.

"Regulatory capture" exists when government supervisors or watchdogs identify more with the industry they are supposed to police than with the Alaskans they are supposed to protect. The placement of key "appointees" implements regulatory capture.

There is an ever-growing obviousness of the political efforts to have the wealthiest and most powerful police themselves. The interests of Alaska and oil are not aligned and should not be aligned.

Alaska, as a sophisticated owner of world-class resources, must behave differently than any entity that wants to extract that resource. Parnell's policies seem directed toward regulatory capture. He wants the most wealthy and most powerful to not have to answer to real Alaskans. Policy decisions will be made in secret, and Alaskans will not be able to find out why. If regulatory capture is allowed, Alaska will have abandoned its sovereignty, its constitutional rights, to entities that it should police and regulate.

Parnell has put government up for sale to the highest bidder and the price of admission is oil connections. The administration bows to the industry that pours money into its political campaigns. If those interests that should be policed are in control, there will be no policing, and Alaska will not be protected.

Alaskans were warned at statehood more than 50 years ago of the dangers of exploitation. What you are now witnessing is exploitation. This slow but insistent process by Parnell towards industry-aligned appointees who will protect their masters and not Alaska is destructive. The gatekeepers of Alaska's interests cannot and should not be the insiders who would like to police themselves. Only the powerful, protected and privileged are advanced and ordinary Alaskans are not part of that "club." Grave peril to Alaska arises. Blame the politicians who say 'yes' to giving away too much money and power.

Joe Paskvan lives in Fairbanks and is an attorney at Paskvan & Ringstad. He served as a Democrat in the Alaska State Senate from 2008 to 2012, including two years as co-chair of the Senate Resources committee and two as co-chair of Senate Labor and Commerce Committee.

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