The Alaska group seeking to overhaul the state’s oil and gas tax system is suing the state over what it said is “inaccurate” language used for the Fair Share Act summary.
This summary language appears on the signature gathering booklets currently being circulated by the group.
The group states in its provisions that the policy change would “only apply to oil produced from fields, units, and nonunitized reservoirs north of 68 degrees north latitude that have produced in excess of (400 million) barrels of total cumulative oil production.”
But, the summary language on the signature booklets states the act would “change the oil and gas production tax for areas of the North Slope where the company produced more than 40,000 barrels of oil per day in the prior year and/or more than 400 million barrels total. It is unclear whether the area has to meet both the 40,000 and 400,000 million thresholds or just one of them.”
The group’s dispute is that of the use of “and/or” as opposed to the group’s preferred “and.” The group is also requesting that “400,000 million” be changed to correctly reference the number “400 million.”
In a legal complaint filed against the Alaska Division of Elections and Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer last week with the Alaska Superior Court, the group outlines both areas, which it deems inaccurate.
“The Fair Share Act expressly states its terms ‘only apply’ to areas in which the annual per barrel production threshold ‘and’ the total cumulative production threshold are met,” the complaint reads, further outlining that the summary’s numericals are inaccurate. “It incorrectly describes the ‘400 million’ barrels of total cumulative oil production as ‘400,000 million.’”
Vote Yes for Alaska’s Fair Share campaign Chair Robin Brena issued a statement Thursday taking issue with the summary.
“The essential purpose of the summary is to be a true and impartial description of the Fair Share Act, but the summary advanced by Lt. Gov. Meyer is neither. These actions by Lt. Gov. Meyer undercut the initiative rights of Alaskans and should not be countenanced by the courts,” Brena said. “The right to propose and enact laws through initiative is a constitutional right of all Alaskans that should not be compromised by Lt. Gov. Meyer or any other state official in the conduct of their official duties.”
Earlier this month, a counter group launched its campaign opposing the proposed ballot initiative. The group, OneAlaska, is made up of a combination of labor union leaders, business officials, Alaska Native group leaders and advocates for Alaska’s oil industry.
The group said it opposes the proposed ballot initiative for fear that it will disrupt the state’s oil-based economy.
“With several significant, new development projects in the works, adding a punitive new tax on companies that are trying to invest in Alaska is the wrong idea at the wrong time,” said Chantal Walsh, former director of the Division of Oil and Gas and now chair of OneAlaska.
The Vote Yes for Alaska’s Fair Share group is in the process of collecting the 28,501 signatures needed to get the initiative on the ballot.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.