Southeast Native leaders decry lack of ANWR revenue sharing

Native profits from ANWR now excluded from mandated sharing

Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Southeast Alaska Native leaders want an Arctic Native corporation to share the wealth from proposed oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Southeast Alaska's regional Native corporation, Sealaska Corp., is the largest contributor to the Native revenue sharing program, created by law in 1983.

Since then, Sealaska has paid out about $300 million of the nearly $700 million that has been generated through the revenue-sharing program, which is divvied out to Native shareholders and village corporations in Alaska.

But Sealaska shareholders are displeased by a longtime provision in federal law that allows Native profits from ANWR to be excluded from revenue sharing.

"It's not just," said shareholder Myrna Gardner, referring to the 42 percent that Sealaska already provides to the other regional Native corporations.

The Cook Inlet Regional Corp. also has criticized the federal provision that shields Arctic Slope from sharing its profits.

The Southeast Alaska Native summit, convened in Juneau for a two-day meeting on energy and economics, voted Tuesday to encourage Arctic Slope to provide revenue sharing from its potential future ANWR profits.

House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo recently rejected a proposed amendment to federal law that would have required the Barrow-based Arctic Slope Regional Corp. to share oil revenues from its 90,000 acres of subsurface land within the refuge.

Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, has said that the issue needs to be resolved by the Native corporations.

Sealaska Executive Vice President Rick Harris said the Alaska Native corporations are now working to come to an agreement on the matter.

"There is an ongoing discussion about whether it is appropriate for (Arctic Slope) to share those revenues," Harris said.

If ANWR is developed, Arctic Slope is not required to share any profits from the subsurface land it owns inside of the refuge.

Arctic Slope is exempted from the "Robin Hood" rule that requires Native regional corporations to share 70 percent of their annual net profits. That's because of a land exchange between the corporation and the Department of Interior in 1983.

"If you trade surface property for subsurface property, then you don't have to (pay)," Harris said.

Sealaska expects that its annual $8 million to $10 million distribution to other regional Native corporations will decline because its timber resource is much smaller than projected.

Harris said he didn't know much the distribution would drop.

• Elizabeth Bluemink can be reached at elizabeth.bluemink@juneauempire.com.



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