Irwin acted with integrity

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, October 28, 2005

Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Irwin is a hero. He demonstrated tremendous personal integrity by authoring the memo in the first place, and the thorough and intelligent legal questions he directed to the attorney general about the governor's so-called gas line "deal" are spot on. The memo was copied to Gov. Frank Murkowski, Chief of Staff Jim Clark and other DNR personnel. It would appear the governor failed to read the memo from Commissioner Irwin before he announced he would make the data public. Nor did he consider that the memo is protected by attorney-client privilege. That was a serious political blunder, and just the kind of information we Alaskans deserve to know about. Mr. Irwin should be praised, not vilified or fired.

When the governor called his news conference last week, as reported in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, and happily announced a "deal," he announced nothing. I am a retired union representative and contract negotiator, and I know something about the art of negotiating. If I negotiated the way this administration has done, I would have been summarily fired on the spot.

The so-called gas line deal that the governor announced last week with Conoco-Phillips appears to be a sham. Commissioner Irwin's memo reveals some extremely troubling issues, such as an administration that continues with negotiations under the Alaska Stranded Gas Development Act, even when the governor has acknowledged the gas is "unstranded." Mr. Irwin states that his understanding of the administration's plan is to bring Alaska law into conformance with the deal after the fact, not to get a contract that conforms to Alaska state law as written now. That is unconscionable. The final straw is that the administration is apparently not going to consider a quantitative evaluation of alternatives, such as the All-Alaska Gas Line.

In closing, I see in a front page headline that House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, presses BP and Exxon for a gas line deal and refers to them as the "owners" of Alaska's gas. I beg to differ. That gas belongs to the citizens of the state of Alaska. BP, Exxon and Conoco-Phillips are merely tenants on our land.

Steve Hovenden


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