Republican Gov. Sean Parnell’s oil production tax reform bill may have advanced out of its first committee of reference in the Senate, but a co-chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Trans-Alaska Pipeline System Throughput said Thursday that the committee has other business to deal with this session.
The TAPS Throughput Committee was created last month, with freshmen Sens. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, and Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, named as its co-chairmen.
At the time, Micciche, Dunleavy and Senate leadership maintained that the committee was not formed just to deal with oil tax reform, one of the biggest issues of the legislative session — although it was the first of three committees to which Parnell’s Senate Bill 21 was referred during the first week of session.
Now that S.B. 21 has passed out of the TAPS Throughput Committee, moving on to a first hearing in the Senate Resources Committee this past Monday, Micciche and Dunleavy have their chance to prove what they have been saying all along — that “TAPS was not designed as an oil tax committee,” in Micciche’s words Thursday.
“I’m relatively happy to have had it move along,” Micciche said of S.B. 21. “I mean, I think we identified some philosophies and some key issues that was appropriate in the committee, but now we can get down to looking at the issues … that better fit the mission of the TAPS Committee.”
One wrinkle: the TAPS Throughput Committee did not meet this past week, and it is not meeting this coming week, either.
Micciche said he believes the committee will meet during the week of Feb. 24.
Once the TAPS Throughput Committee does return, Micciche said, it has “a whole list of … things that we’re looking at” to tackle.
Among the topics Micciche mentioned in a committee framework he wrote earlier in the session are technical issues like water and gas handling limits to production and aging infrastructure, as well as more policy-oriented topics like permitting, local hiring on the oilfields and incentives for oil production below the 68th parallel north.
Senate President Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla, said Friday that the TAPS Throughput Committee was his brainchild.
“Most people I talked to recognize — and of course we were reminded this year — about the budget and the lack of revenue, and you start looking around and you come to the conclusion that decline is a problem,” Huggins said. “We created the TAPS Throughput decline committee to be the first committee of referral to look at that issue in particular.”
Huggins noted that all four majority senators on the committee also have seats on the other committees that will hear oil-related issues. Micciche sits on the Resources Committee, as do Sens. Anna Fairclough, R-Eagle River, and Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage. Dunleavy and Fairclough are on the Senate Finance Committee.
“What’s unique about that committee is that if you sit on that committee, the majority members will see whatever goes through there most likely one more time,” said Huggins. “But in the case of the oil tax bill, they’ll see it one more time — some will see it twice. So you get schooled along the way, and you learn more and more. And you can also present the pros and the cons when people are debating based on what you have heard subject matter experts mention previously.”
Huggins reiterated what Micciche said, that the TAPS Throughput Committee was not created to deal with oil tax reform.
But the issue may rear its head again in the committee.
Sen. Berta Gardner, D-Anchorage, the minority caucus’ sole member on the committee, has vowed to push for a bill hearing on Senate Bill 50, the “alternative” proposal introduced by minority Democrats on Monday.
Micciche said Thursday that he is willing to work with House and Senate Democrats who have brought their proposal forward in determining whether S.B. 50 should get a hearing in the TAPS Throughput Committee, the first committee to which it has been referred.
Dunleavy could not be reached for comment either Thursday or Friday.
• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 586-1821 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.