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Rumored BP sale raises concerns

Bill Walker, Alaska Dispatch, July 16, 2010

It is being widely reported that various companies are considering acquiring BP.

As Alaskans we must be ever diligent to ensure our interests are protected. It has been reported that Exxon Mobil Corp. has approached the White House for affirmation that the Obama administration will not oppose its takeover of BP. As a founding member of Backbone, a nonpartisan group of Alaskans who successfully prevented BP's acquisition of ARCO Alaska's interest in the North Slope, I am deeply troubled by this recent announcement.

Backbone was a group of several dozen Alaskans who stood together to oppose monopolization of the North Slope by a multinational corporation in the early 2000s. Its only objective was to advocate for what was best for Alaska. The politically diverse members included former Govs. Wally Hickel and Jay Hammond, Vic Fisher, David Gottstein, Malcolm Roberts, Chancy Croft, Jack Roderick, Mead Treadwell, and other Alaskan patriots. Many of us lobbied the Federal Trade Commission and travelled to D.C. to testify to stop the BP acquisition of ARCO Alaska. This ad hoc group was ultimately successful in preventing BP from controlling over two-thirds of Alaskan oil production, and as a direct result of those efforts, we enjoy the benefit of ConocoPhillips operating in Alaska today.

We should have identical concerns about Exxon Mobil acquiring a majority stake in Alaska's oil patch. Any attempt by Exxon Mobil to gain control of our resources without the opportunity for Alaskans to voice their concerns over the company's monopolization of the development of our resources should be halted posthaste. Under no circumstances should Alaskans be cut out of the decision making process.

I have long fought for transparency and competition in Alaska's oil fields. We must once again fight at all costs to prevent Exxon Mobil Corp. -- a company that refused to develop Point Thomson without a lawsuit -- from controlling the North Slope. Exxon Mobil has been the worst offender of warehousing Alaska's resources while aggressively pursuing its interests of developing projects around the world that compete with Alaska's resources. As an example, when Exxon finally began development of Point Thomson when forced to by litigation, it was the first well the company drilled on the North Slope since 1983.

Where is Gov. Parnell on this and other critical Alaska issues? Why are we not joining Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in the courtrooms that are deciding the offshore drilling moratorium? We have a two-thirds-empty oil pipeline, responsible for 90 percent of state revenues, so why are we not fully and doggedly engaged on this important issue?

The other mentioned purchaser of BP Alaska's assets is Apache Corp. Remember that Apache holds a controlling interest in the proposed Canadian LNG export terminal in British Columbia. While I agree with Apache's statements that the only market for Arctic gas is LNG to the premium Asian markets, Alaska's gas should not be bound for global markets via a Canadian LNG export terminal in British Columbia. Although I am excited to have a partner that recognizes the economic future of our gas lies in East Asia, before we sign off on an Apache acquisition of BP Alaska assets we must ensure that our interests will come before those of Canadian projects. Once Alaska's gas crosses the border into Canada, Alaskans lose the potential for low cost energy and Alaskan jobs associated with the construction as well as long term Alaskan jobs resulting from value added manufacturing.

Bill Walker is a Republican candidate for governor.

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