Area legislators discuss oil

Town hall held in Chugiak


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Sen. Anna Fairclough holds a chart showing projected state spending versus revenue as she answers a question during a town hall meeting Saturday, Feb. 16 at the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center. Reps. Dan Saddler, left, Lora Reinbold and Bill Stoltze and Sen. Fred Dyson were all in attendance.

MIKE NESPER

Oil topped the list of issues when the five area legislators returned from Juneau to hold a town hall meeting at the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center on Saturday, Feb. 16.

“It’s the biggest, most important issue we face because oil pays the bills in Alaska,” said Rep. Dan Saddler, R-Eagle River.

Under the current production tax ACES (Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share), the state isn’t as attractive to new investors as it should be, said Sen. Anna Fairclough, R-Eagle River/East Anchorage.

Rep. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, agreed.

“We are not competitive,” she said.

Fairclough said she’s not completely sold on Gov. Sean Parnell’s proposal but does support change to the oil tax structure.

Due to its complicated nature, Fairclough said she expects SB21 will be under review by the Senate for five more weeks.

Saddler, too, expressed dissatisfaction with ACES.

“It’s not translating into production,” he said.

Sen. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River, said he’s hopeful that a change to the tax structure will result in more natural gas development in Cook Inlet.

Dyson said Cook Inlet has the supply, but that Alaskans’ demand during winter months is a problem. So far this year, it hasn’t been an issue, he said.

“It looks like this winter we’ve dodged the bullet,” Dyson said.

After decades of having the same conversation, Reinbold said it’s time to implement a long-term energy plan for the state.

The recent agreement between Russian oil company Rosneft and Exxon Mobil was also discussed.

The agreement, which was signed Feb. 13, gives Rosneft the option to purchase a 25 percent interest in the Point Thomson field. Point Thomson is estimated to house a quarter of the North Slope’s recoverable natural gas.

Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak/Mat-Su, said he hadn’t fully processed the deal.

“I’m still digesting it,” he said.

Saddler said he was encouraged to see an investment interest in Alaska’s natural gas development.

The delegation also fielded multiple questions concerning completion of the football stadium at Eagle River High.

Reinbold said the project ranked in the top three of her priorities.

“It’s very, very, very valuable,” she said, citing that athletics helps motivate students to perform better academically.

Five months ago, 10 rows of aluminum bleachers, which seats about 400, were installed on one side of the turf field. Eventually, the school wants seating for 1,000, a PA system and lighting.

While supportive, Fairclough said funding the project could prove difficult with an estimated $1 billion budget shortfall the Legislature must deal with.

Parnell’s proposed 2014 budget targets capital budgets to cut $1.1 billion in spending. So far, the only Chugiak-Eagle River entity listed in the governor’s capital budget is $200,000 slated for Chugach State Park, Stoltze said.

Two local teachers also raised concern over cutting positions throughout the Anchorage School District. The district is considering cuts to make up for a $25 million shortfall for next school year.

Reinbold said she doesn’t want to see anyone lose their job, but a sustainable budget is needed for the future.

The next town hall meeting is scheduled for March 23 from 4 to 6 p.m. at Eagle River Town Center.

 

Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or mike.nesper@alaskastar.com.

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