Panel defeats plan to share ANWR profits with other Native corporations

Posted: Friday, October 28, 2005

FAIRBANKS - An amendment to force the Arctic Slope Regional Corp. to share oil revenues from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with other Alaska Native corporations died in the House Resources Committee.

The committee met Wednesday to craft language for a budget bill being pulled together in each house of Congress. The budget reconciliation bill will attempt to amend a variety of federal laws to "reconcile" them with revenue and spending goals set by each house earlier this year. Included in the reconciliation bills is language to open ANWR to petroleum drilling.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-N.M., proposed the revenue-sharing amendment to correct what he described as an unfair situation arising from a 1983 land swap between Arctic Slope Regional Corp. and the Department of the Interior.

Seventy percent of oil and mineral revenues from land granted to Alaska's 12 regional Native corporations under the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act must be shared among the corporations. But 90,000 acres obtained by the regional corporation within the Arctic refuge is exempt from that rule, Grijalva said.

That means no other Alaska Native corporation would share in the refuge oil wealth if Congress allows drilling, he said.

"If Congress is going to allow this to happen," Grijalva said of the proposed drilling, "we should do this in a manner that is fair for Alaska Natives."

California Republican Rep. Richard Pombo, the Resources Committee chairman, said the issue had been resolved.

"I'm told this is also an issue that has been tested in court and a settlement has been reached and it's not necessary to address the issue in the underlying bill," Pombo said.

Pombo was referring to a 129-page settlement reached by regional corporations in 1983, the same year as the land swap, to end lawsuits over interpretation of the revenue-sharing provision in section 7(i) of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

Alaska's federal district court approved the settlement and a judge has upheld it as recently as 1999. Some Native corporation leaders and shareholders, though, say the issue should be reopened, given the oil money Arctic Slope Regional might make off its lands in the Arctic refuge.

At the Alaska Federation of Natives convention last week, Ahtna Corp. leaders circulated but ultimately withdrew a resolution asking Congress to cut other corporations in on oil revenue from Arctic Slope Regional land in the refuge.

U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, said Wednesday through his spokeswoman Courtney Schikora Boone that he is willing to talk with any individual Alaskan or group about the issue. Boone said the senator has not agreed to broker a compromise.

"Ultimately I firmly believe that this is an issue that will be decided by the Alaska Native community," Stevens said.

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