Governor Sarah Palin is sleeping with the enemy of many Alaskans. Her trip to Houston, Texas to discuss a merged project with TransCanada and Exxon Mobil betrays Alaskans still reeling from last year’s devastating Supreme Court verdict. It flies in the face of anyone with a memory of 20 years let alone last June. Exxon promised to “make Alaskans whole” and they never did; just another broken promise piled on top of all the others.
Last year, Palin’s AGIA (Alaska Gasline Inducement Act) passed into law, awarding TransCanada $500 million in state funds to build the 1,700 mile pipeline. Through the support of the Democrats she was able to pass the law, earning her the title of “socialist” from her Republican critics. The same Democratic lawmakers were thrown under the “Hate Talk Express” during the election. I support a gasline, and supported AGIA when it was Exxon-free. It was the only way to have a chance for an All-Alaska gasline; built along the existing corridor of the Trans-Alaska pipeline. The existing route would prevent years of litigation over Canadian tribal lands and minimize additional environmental impact and border security issues.
TransCanada doesn’t hold any leases of gas or oil on the North Slope. Conoco Phillips and BP, an unlikely couple, birthed the “Denali” project. They want to build a gasline without the $500 million in state funds. The whole point of the producers not owning the pipeline was to allow the state more control over being double billed; Alaska is, after all, a resource owner state.
A huge reversal in the administration’s stance with Exxon came in January of this year. Let’s just call it foreplay. Exxon and its partners had been locked out after state regulators withdrew their leases on state land. They pulled them because Exxon sat on the 106,201-acre Point Thomson for over three decades. Basically, you snooze, you lose.
Exxon came back and said they really would develop it this time and start producing by 2014. Scout’s honor. Promise. Alaska Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Irwin said “thanks, but no thanks”, saying he couldn’t trust Exxon to do what they promised. Well, the administration and Exxon had a Dr. Phil sort of make up session and flipped, allowing Exxon to keep their leases.
It boggled the mind. Where was the new found trust with the company who strung Alaskans along with 20 years of litigation after the Exxon Valdez disaster? When the governor was quizzed by Katie Couric about what US Supreme Court decisions she hadn’t agreed with other than Roe v Wade, she blanked. I was stunned. Baker v Exxon! June 25, 2008! THREE MONTHS EARLIER! You know, the verdict the conservative “activist judges” on the Supreme Court set precedent and forever capped negligent corporation’s punitive damages?! WHAT?! Their initial $5 billion dollar judgment had been reduced to $500 million. A whopping ten cents on the dollar. By the way, the herring run in Prince William Sound never did come back. Exxon extinguished it. Now we are paying them?
With the announcement of Exxon climbing into bed with TransCanada for the $500 million inducement to build the gasline, the Palin Administration’s January roll over makes more sense.
As someone who helped clean up the negligent, massive, environmental catastrophe known as the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, and fished her whole life, take it from me: Doing business with Exxon is like letting the guy who date raped your daughter rent your basement. But, hey, at least we have a tenant.
This picture was taken of remaining oil in the sound the day after the Supreme Court ruling last June. Nineteen years after the spill…it’s still there.