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October 24, 2014

WE DID IT, ALASKA! Oil Giveaway on the Ballot.

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Head of the Division of Elections Gail Fenumiai (in blue) and others count petition books after submission.

 

Moments ago, the Alaska Division of Elections announced that they had received enough valid voter signatures to put the question of repealing SB21, the massive giveaway of state money to oil companies, on the primary ballot in August of 2014.

After achieving his stated goal of a Republican majority in the State House and Senate (albeit using redistricting lines later found to be unconstitutional), Governor Sean Parnell got the vote he wanted in the 2013 legislative session. The vote in the Senate was made possible by two legislators who are literally employed by ConocoPhillips.

Last month, Parnell signed into law Senate Bill 21 (SB21) giving billions from Alaska’s coffers to BP,Exxon, and ConocoPhillips. Alaska got the short end of the stick, and is now beginning the hemorrhage of billions of dollars from education, public safety, parks, roads, and bridges. The oil companies, the most profitable corporations the world has ever known, stand to gain those billions, with no strings attached. The governor, his supporters, and the oil industry lobbyists’ rationale for the massive giveaway is that it will “incentivize” more production of oil on Alaska’s North Slope. Hopefully. Maybe. If they decided to. Or not.

Fortune Magazine even took note of the situation, speculating in a recent article, “The industry got a coveted tax cut from the state, but did it overreach?”

Oil companies operating in Alaska scored a long-awaited victory this spring when Gov. Sean Parnell signed legislation significantly cutting state taxes on oil profits. But even before Parnell put his pen to the tax cut bill, opponents were seeking to overturn it, raising questions about whether the industry was too ambitious in its lobbying efforts—and whether the legislation will ultimately ramp up production on the state’s North Slope as promised.

Did it overreach? Alaskans seem to be saying yes, and saying it quite decisively.

Did it matter to the Governor, and the Republicans in the legislature who supported him that the Alaska Constitution clearly states Alaska’s resources are to be developed “for the maximum benefit of the people?” Clearly not.

Almost immediately after the vote in the legislature that passed SB21, Alaskans from every walk of life, every political party, and from every geographic region in the state banded together in a massive effort to put the question to a vote of the people – Do we let SB21 stand, or do we say enough?

Alaskans succeeded in putting the repeal on the ballot despite the effort of Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell and Art Hackney to remove names from the ballot through the anonymously-funded website “imadeamistake.org.”

Treadwell appears to have colluded with Art Hackney and the anonymously-funded organization “Alaska Resources Committee” to organize a withdrawal of signatures from the petition to repeal SB 21.  According to a report in the Frontiersman and theAlaska Dispatch, Treadwell told Hackney that the “Alaska Resources Committee” could collect signatures via an unsecured web form and then submit them to the Lieutenant Governor’s office to be withdrawn from the petition.  Treadwell, as Lieutenant Governor has the sole statutory responsibility of overseeing the Division of Elections, including impartial administration of citizens’ referenda such as the one Hackney’s organization is attempting to sabotage.

Under Alaska state law, anyone who has signed the petition may remove their name “only by providing written notice to the Lieutenant Governor” (AS 15.45.350).  But, Treadwell’s unilateral decision to allow an outside interest group to collect signatures via an unsecured web form does not appear to be based on any statutory or administratively-established authority.  Hackney’s web form, which he says Treadwell approved, was unsecured, and one person could actually remove another person’s name from the petition.

Despite this hinkiness, the effort repeal SB21 managed a successful and far-reaching statewide signature gathering campaign. 30,169 signatures from 40 districts across the state were needed to put the question on the ballot. An astounding 898 petition books with more than 50,000 signatures were gathered in a state with a total population of only 700,000. The signatures were submitted last Saturday to the Division of Elections.

Now, of course, the real battle will begin. With more than a year until the question is put to the people, moneyed special interests with billions to gain will step to the plate and prepare for media wars. Fundraising campaigns will be held for the other side as well, as David goes up against the fiscal Goliath of Big Oil. Regardless of the outcome, Alaska’s media market will be a winner.

The Mudflats talked with Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anch), one of the repeal’s strongest proponents about what the initiative means, why SB21 will harm Alaska, and what lies ahead.

Alaskans do have a history of ignoring the “whoever has the most money wins” rule. Back in 2006, despite a huge and expensive ad campaign from the cruise ship industry claiming it would be death for the industry, voters approved a $46 head tax  to help cover costs of infrastructure needed for large ships coming to port.

There was no pulling the wool over Alaskans’ eyes then, and it seems there’s no doing it now.

Alaskans have had it. They’ve had it with politicians who sell them down the river for the interest of multinational corporations. They’ve had it with greed. They’ve had it with watching the Alaska Constitution ignored while our children’s future is siphoned out from under us and into the bank accounts of Big Oil.

What happens next depends solely on the willingness of Alaskans to fight for their future, become engaged in efforts to get out the vote, and talking to friends and neighbors. Giving away billions with nothing in return for Alaska? It should be an easy sell.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski addresses a crowd gathered to celebrate signature gathering efforts.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski addresses a crowd gathered to celebrate signature gathering efforts.

 

Comments

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Comments
15 Responses to “WE DID IT, ALASKA! Oil Giveaway on the Ballot.”
  1. Mo says:

    I had no idea that “imadeamistake” hinkiness was going on.

    Republicans will do just about anything to subvert government, won’t they. Some people are starting to wonder if that obstruction and subversion of government is tantamount to sedition and treason, and that perhaps it’s time to start prosecuting more serious offenders than internet leakers.

  2. Zyxomma says:

    Terrific, Alaska, you’ve taken the first step. Now comes the hard part, registering and educating voters, in the face of an onslaught of oily propaganda, and getting voters to the polls to protect their own interest. Thanks, AKM, for keeping us up to date.

  3. juneaudream says:

    When…….The People STAND..the Family..strengthens. ah hey…

  4. Fred says:

    This is going to be a tough one. But remember “IT’S OUR OIL!”
    Get active. Stay active. Corpotations vote with their money, lets vote those who support big oil out.
    IT’S OUR OIL Gov. Wally Hickel

  5. Heartland says:

    Great value was given away for nothing required in return. Bad lawmaking. Onshore North Slope fields will most likely collectively decline for the next 50 years, as that is the nature of an oil field. Only new fields that come online will briefly raise production. Over the past five years both companies and the State of Alaska have made record profits of something like 12 times the amount of profit per barrel of oil. That’s far more money on 1/4th the amount of oil pumped during the record year of 1988. Alaska deserves to share in the record profits of price increases. SB21 just rolled them back without any incentives for new production and without requirements to invest in Alaska–one of the safest and most profitable oil fields in the world. We need leaders who work for Alaska as hard as oil companies work for their record profits.

  6. laLurainnocal says:

    Congrats!!!! This first step is huge. Lousy timing it hits for the primary. Didn’t quite understand if the re-gerrymandering effort would be determined by then or not. Keep on keepin’ on. Gotta get the village vote out.

  7. thatcrowwoman says:

    Go get ‘em, Alaska.
    Take your resources back.

  8. Alaska Pi says:

    Yeehaw!
    Gonna be a tough one, the long time before we can vote on it, the $$s and slime which the oilies will throw at it, the fact it is on the primary ballot-
    We’ll need to have these lil pep talks often!

  9. benlomond2 says:

    silly question… if the gerrymandering was determined to be illegal, when will the lines be redrawn/reinstated, and does that mean the districts have to vote over again for representation with legally drawn districts in 2014?

    • Alaska Pi says:

      redistricting is in process right now. Board made a plan, folks have complained, we’ll see what we end up with and how many trips to court it takes…
      and the first statewide vote after we get whatever it is will the same one this referendum is on…

  10. mike from iowa says:

    Where did Fortune Magazine get the quaint notion that “ramped up” oil production on the North Slope was guaranteed? From what I have been able to find and read,oil production increases were never put in writing. I apologize if I missed that important guarantee. Wake up Alaska citizens and throw the nutjobs out of office before you and your children have no future!!

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  1. […] repeal of SB21 — the governor’s giveaway — will be on the primary ballot next August thanks to the signatures of more than 50,000 Alaskans. This matters to us. The state has saved $19 […]

  2. […] repeal of SB21 — the governor’s giveaway — will be on the primary ballot next August thanks to the signatures of more than 50,000 Alaskans. This matters to us. The state has saved $19 […]



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