A mock check from the State of Alaska to ConocoPhillips for $5.5 billion burned in a bonfire at Bishop’s Beach Thursday as part of a state-wide rally protesting Senate Bill 21.
The bill, now making its way through the Alaska House, proposes to give a tax break to oil companies to spur development on the North Slope. It passed 11-9 in the Alaska Senate on March 21. A revised version of the bill proposes to lower the State of Alaska portion from 35 percent as decided in the Senate, to 33 percent.
In the final days prior to the vote, Backbone organized the rally as a way for citizens against the “oil giveaway bill” to organize for a concerted message.
“It may seem that there is no way of turning this around,” a Cook InletKeeper founder, Michael O’Meara, told a gathering of nearly 100 people. “But if there is enough of the people who are appalled, if enough people fight this, they can turn this around.”
In 1996 when Homer residents rose up and fought against Federal Lease 149, an oil development proposed in Cook Inlet, they won the battle. The federal oil lease sale was called off.
“I remember that night (when the decision came back), many of us sat on this same beach and burned the pages of the EIS one-by-one, and drank bottle after bottle of champagne,” O’Meara said. “Don’t give up.”
Numerous speakers urged rally attendants to write House legislators urging them to not pass the bill.
Backbone was founded in 1999 by former Gov. Walter J. Hickel, David Gottstein of the prominent Alaska Gottstein family, oil and gas attorney Bill Walker. Within in a few weeks, they were joined by former Governor Jay Hammond, former Senate Presidents Chancy Croft and Rick Halford, former Delegate to the Constitutional Convention Sen. Vic Fischer and many others from business, labor and public service.
The Backbone Rallies, simultaneous to Homer’s, were called in Sitka at the Crescent Harbor Shelter, in Fairbanks at Veteran’s Memorial Park, in Anchorage at the Legislative Information Office and in Juneau on the Capitol steps.
The group points to the SB 21 as a giveaway that will leave large revenue deficits at the expense of the people of Alaska in years to come. Cook InletKeeper’s Bob Shavelson handed out copies of a photo featuring Gov. Sean Parnell. Beneath were statistics on what the bill would take from the state treasury, the equivalent of $121,000 every hour of every day, Backbone estimates.
At the Homer rally, Mossy Kilcher recalled her father, Yule Kilcher, one of the framers of the Alaska Constitution when the convention met in Fairbanks in 1955.
“Right now he is yelling and screaming and twisting and turning over in his grave. You can just about hear him, can’t you?”
“Yes,” several in the crowd responded.
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