My Turn: It's our oil, it's also our future

As elected leaders across the state and our nation make their final push toward the general election, it’s important to highlight that as Election Day approaches, a major policy battle is raging in the Last Frontier. It’s a fight for the future of Alaska, and I believe there is no bigger threat to Alaska’s economic future than the lack of progress on meaningful and responsible oil-tax reform. That’s why Arctic Slope Regional Corporation has aggressively added its voice to those who believe that each Alaskan can play a decisive role in this protracted campaign by choosing prosperity at the ballot box on Nov. 6.

ASRC is a for-profit company that represents Alaska’s North Slope and our approximately 11,000 Iñupiaq shareholders. Our owners, a majority of whom call the area home, understand the importance of a robust and sustainable oil and gas industry. As the largest Alaskan-owned company, we not only report to a large shareholder base, but we also provide more than 10,000 jobs – in Alaska and the Lower 48. Responsible production allows companies like ours to positively impact our communities by hiring workers across the state, providing training to our shareholders and employees and awarding scholarships to the next generation.

In the past 7 years alone, ASRC has contributed more than $15 million to nonprofit organizations and shared more than half a billion dollars with the dozen other land-based regional Alaska Native Corporations. Our company and employees have directly benefitted from oil development and production in Alaska. If we are to continue providing for our employees, our communities and our people, while fulfilling our obligation and responsibility of serving as a corporate leader, the State of Alaska must create an atmosphere that encourages investment. That’s why, as a corporation, ASRC strongly supports meaningful oil tax reform.

The people of the North Slope have a long-standing, vested interested in encouraging and overseeing economic development in the North Slope of Alaska, and the success of the North Slope impacts the entire state. Accordingly, ASRC’s focus is on the long term prosperity of our shareholders and of all Alaskans. We believe that unreasonably high tax rates forced upon Alaska’s oil producers not only penalize the industry, but also penalize the entire energy support sector and its employees.

In order for ASRC and its subsidiaries to be successful, we need Alaska’s legislators to take action and create positive change in our oil tax structure. It is time for our leaders to reverse the trend of declining oil production on Alaska’s North Slope. We do not need Outside voices determining the future of Alaska’s oil tax policy.

The battle to reform Alaska’s oil tax structure, sadly, has deteriorated over the past few years into emotional rhetoric, simplified slogans, and misleading accusations. Opponents of reform have labeled the effort to breathe new life into North Slope oil production, and to foster long-term investment, as a ‘”giveaway” to the industry. In fact, these very critics are stifling Alaska’s future oil development and economic stability.

To those politicians who dismiss oil tax reform as unnecessary, I would say this: it is our oil, and it’s also our future. Allow us to honor our promise by honoring your promises to the people of Alaska — support meaningful oil tax reform.

• Sweeney is Senior Vice President of External Affairs for the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation.

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