Alaska's King

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Monday, October 24, 2005

Alaska Bureaucrats Display Intregrity, Principles, rather than sell out to Multinational Oil Companies

Submitted via email Tom Irwin, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, said in a memorandum to the state's attorney general that he and other officials may quit rather than take part in a deal that would give too much away to ConocoPhillips, BP Plc., and Exxon Mobil Corp.

Putting department members "in a work environment where they seriously question the legality of administrative actions they are asked to participate in is so troubling that it could result in the resignation of exceedingly valuable members of our gas pipeline team," Irwin said in his memo sent last week.

Contract terms, as currently developed, could be cheating Alaska out of revenue from state-owned mineral rights and may expose the state to unnecessary financial risks, Irwin said.

The terms could also undercut terms of current oil-field leases and force unwarranted changes in the state's oil-tax structure, he said.

Irwin was not available for comment. But his concerns echoed those of some of the Republican governor's critics.

"The thrust of his argument is that Alaska is going to give up too much to get a deal that the marketplace should deliver," said House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, an Anchorage Democrat and candidate for governor.

Murkowski released Irwin's memo late on Friday just as he was announcing an agreement with ConocoPhillips on fiscal terms for the pipeline.

The natural gas project, with a cost estimated at $20 billion, would ship 4 billion cubic feet a day down a pipeline system expected to run more than 3,000 miles through Canada to the U.S. Midwest. It would provide a transportation system for the 35 trillion cubic feet of natural gas known to be held in North Slope oil fields.