Lawyers are the only winners in Ballot Measure 1 debate

Community Perspective

  • Daniel Darnell

Ballot Measure 1 was drafted in secret by attorneys Robin Brena and Joe Paskvan. When you read the ballot measure, it’s clear to see they are using extortive tactics against Alaska’s largest economic driver — the oil industry. Under the guise of the “Fair Share” slogan, they seek to deceive the public into raising taxes up to three times higher on our legacy North Slope fields. This strategy will backfire on Alaskans. If Ballot Measure 1 passes, the oil companies will have no choice but to reevaluate new exploration and could very well pack everything up and move their business units to more profitable states. This would be a disaster for Alaska and not a risk worth taking.

Joe Paskvan says if Ballot Measure 1 passes, there will be a negligible effect and “oil companies will not walk away when Alaska gets its fair share.” I beg to differ. Joe is not on the board of directors of any oil company. He does not know this to be true. The government may receive a one- or two-year short-term increase in tax revenue, but oil companies will stop exploration work. No more Greater Mooses Tooth or Willow developments. No development of the Pikka field, Alaska’s great hope for a major boost to oil production in the near-term. No future prosperity. Next time you see Joe, please ask him why BP sold its assets and left the state. The oil companies have repeatedly said they want to invest in stable environments and avoid uncertainties, like varying tax liabilities. Oil tax rates and transportation costs are already higher in Alaska than any other state. Ballot Measure 1 will make that disparity even worse.

If Ballot Measure 1 passes, those of us who want to raise our families in Alaska will have a very tough time making a living. With oil slowing down and the pipeline struggling even to remain viable, over 80% of our state revenue will disappear. Other Alaska industries, like tourism, fishing, mining and timber, cannot come close to filling that void.

For the past 40 years, attorneys Brena and Paskvan have worked on both sides of the oil industry as lobbyists, consultants, estimators and litigators. They play both sides of the field, sometimes representing the oil companies and sometimes the cities, boroughs, Alaska Native organizations and state interests. That is all fine, but it is important that voters know that they stand to make real money from the passage of Ballot Measure 1.

I wager most Alaskans don’t know Robin Brena, the architect of this campaign, has personally contributed more than $463,000 of his own money toward its passage. It raises the question of whether Brena is donating that much cash purely out of the kindness of his heart or whether he stands to profit from the deal.

If history repeats itself, Brena stands to drum up business through his law firm Brena, Bell and Walker, the firm that proudly proclaims itself the premiere law firm for Alaska “focusing on oil and gas business litigation cases.” If Ballot Measure 1 passes, he and his partners stand to benefit from the litigation that inevitably will follow this ballot measure.

Ballot Measure 1 is poorly written, open for wide interpretation, and will absolutely face long court battles to decipher its meaning and constitutionality. To use lawyer speak, this may very well be the proponents’ motive.

Stop the nonsense and protect Alaska’s revenue and jobs. Vote no on Ballot Measure 1.

Daniel Darnell lives in Fairbanks. He has worked as a union pipefitter on the North Slope and in Fairbanks for nearly 20 years.