House Resources, under anti-oil control, squelches industry leader - Must Read Alaska
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Saturday, September 26, 2020
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House Resources, under anti-oil control, squelches industry leader

Rep. Geran Tarr opens a hearing on her bill, HB 111, which would raise taxes on oil.

FIREWORKS AS GERAN TARR SCOLDS WITNESS

An Alaska’s State House Resources Committee co-chair, already on the record against oil development, interrupted the testimony of Alaska’s spokesperson for the oil and gas industry during a Wednesday night hearing.

Rep. Geran Tarr cut off Kara Moriarty abruptly and then gave her a public scolding.

Moriarty, the CEO of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, was the first person to testify during the hearing that started at 6:30 pm, and the rebuke from Tarr came within the first few minutes.

Tarr, D-Anchorage, lectured Moriarty about what would and would not be allowed in her testimony: “Ms. Moriarty, we are not going to make statements like that in this committee,” Tarr warned. “So you’re not going to impugn the motives of that individual. If you want to respond to anything that was said, that’s fine. But we’re not going to do that.”

GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT

What drew Tarr’s ire is that Moriarty had firmly challenged old data presented by an invited speaker brought in by Tarr and co-chair Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage,  to shore up their argument for higher taxes.

The expert had provided bad information to the committee two days earlier, and Moriarty was calling him out on it.

Moriarty, between that Monday hearing and her opportunity to testify on Wednesday, had discovered that his company not only had access to new data, but the new information had already been provided to the State Competitiveness Review Board. He had denied the information was available.

Rich Ruggiero, Castle Gap Energy Partners

Rich Ruggiero of Castle Gap Energy Partners had simply chosen not to use the new data, but relied on an old slide from 2011, when oil was over $90 a barrel and tax policies were quite different across the globe.

And when asked on Monday by committee member Rep. Dave Talerico, R-Healy, for updated information, Ruggiero shrugged off the question by saying it would be pretty hard to get. That was not true.

Ruggiero, who helped the Palin administration craft the disastrous but now-defunct ACES tax plan, was paid $35,000 by House Democrats to give testimony favorable to raising oil taxes. He testified that Alaska raising its oil taxes often is not unusual, because it’s done all over the world all the time.

He also told the committee that they should expect to hear pushback from industry trade organizations like the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, which he said would bring out the same old “detracting themes” that industry brings up all over the world —  how stability, competition and jobs will be negatively impacted if Alaska enacts higher taxes on industry.

Kara Moriarty, Alaska Oil and Gas Association

When Moriarty had her turn to speak on Wednesday, she came roaring out of the gate, blasting the old data and Ruggiero’s implication that the oil industry would try to mislead the committee.

“Your consultant on Monday mentioned that Alaska is not the only government changing taxes. And he used the six-year-old slide to demonstrate that point. He was very direct and told you that industry, including the trade association — in fact, he called out AOGA directly — would deploy ‘detracting themes’ such as stability, competition, and jobs, as reasons why you should not increase government take,” Moriarty said.

“I just want to put it on the record that I personally take great exception to his choice of words, and frankly I find them insulting,” Moriarty said.

“He was insinuating that industry is not credible and that these themes should not be believed. The reason the industry does talk about stability, competition, and jobs across the globe is that they are real factors,” Moriarty continued.

Moriarty explained she had easily found Ruggiero’s company updates through 2016. She found them on the State’s own website. She continued: By using old data,  it appeared that Ruggiero was either ill-prepared or was trying to push an agenda.

That’s when Tarr snapped at Moriarty, and then abruptly cut off committee member Chris Birch, R-Anchorage: “You will not interrupt the chair!”

Moriarty didn’t back down; she was responding to the charts provided by Ruggiero, which were obviously inaccurate.

TERM OF THE DAY: ‘DETRACTING THEMES’

Curiously, during Ruggiero’s Monday testimony, he had also assigned motives to the oil industry,  with his prediction of “detracting themes” the committee should expect. But his impugning of the motives of the oil and gas association was allowed and then actually defended by the committee co-chairs.  When Moriarty made the very accurate and important observation that Ruggiero’s slides were either intentionally or unintentionally erroneous, Tarr leaped to his defense by inventing a new standard for testimony on the spur of the moment.  That new standard seems to be that testifiers are welcome to impugn the credibility of industry, but industry is not allowed to defend itself.

The co-chairs also showed favoritism to another testifier who was clearly in their corner on raising oil taxes. Earlier this session, the co-chairs allowed oil industry foe Robin Brena,  a political ally of Gov. Bill Walker, a full two hours to testify about the need for sharply higher oil taxes, during which time he showed over 50 slides and several times impugned the motives of Alaska’s oil producers.

Tarr and Josephson, both considered stridently anti-resource development, were recorded at a December 13 meeting of the Alaska Center (for the Environment), where Josephson told the members present, “Use my office and Rep. Tarr’s office as a virtual satellite office.” The Alaska Center for the Environment’s mission statement includes its political agenda: “We engage, empower and elect Alaskans to stand up for our clean air and water, healthy communities, and a strong democracy.” The group spends significant funds to elect anti-development Democrats.

As hearings continue, Tarr is making it clear the House Resources Committee is the Alaska Center’s satellite operation, and that the oil industry now must answer to her and can keep their “detractor themes” to themselves.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • About time for a through audit of tax credits claimed in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

  • When the oil price was $100, the oil companies paid $2 billion per year to Alaska with the progressive surcharge on excessive profits, now when, the oil price is $50, the oil companies should paying to Alaska $1 billion per year on reduced, excessive profits. Since SB 21, the progressive surcharge has to be roll-backed, so the oil companies owe Alaska $3 billion. The oil corporations are doing very well, because the former Chief Executive Officer of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson, now Secretary of State, retired with a retirement package worth over $180 million.

  • The majors should not get any tax credits unless they buy oil from small oil companies that are blocked by a rigged system!
    The state needs to tell the majors that they can only get a tax credit if they buy the smaller competitors oil using the process facilities and transportation tanker to market.
    The majors have a monopoly on the oil markets and they control all oil going to market with their facilities!
    No one can sell oil on the North Slope for many reasons, so open Alaska up to smaller competitors or lose all state tax credits!

  • The politics of envy still work for you democrats. Screw the producers and pass the savings on to your friends and cronies.

    Tarr and her majority propose to be the single oil producing province in the world to talk about raising taxes on the producers. Are they right? or is the rest of the world right? My money (and yours) ought to be on the rest of the world.

    We owe the unpaid tax credits to mostly small producers – the very same producers you commenters are demanding us to support. Well we did, but Walker chose not to pay what is due and his democrat backers supported him. A lot of those little guys are facing bankruptcy due to Walker’s action.

    Keep this up and not a drop of the new oil discoveries will make it into TAPS. Keep this up and the state economy that is currently collapsing will end up looking little better than Venezuela, another oil producing province that decided to screw over its producers all in the name of fairness, and getting even with them for decades of imagines sleights. Cheers –

    • Paying a fair severance to the owners of the oil isn`t what Venezuela did, They nationalized the whole industry to subsidize their oil so they could pay ten cents a gallon for gasoline. That was wrong of course, but so is comparing Alaska to Venezuela. Conoco lost money last year every place the have leases in the world…except Alaska where they made something like $238,000,000 million in PROFITS in one quarter. Moriarty was called for impugning the witness with senseless claims that are unsubstantiated, She is a lobbyist, he is a trained and respected expert in oil tax systems around the world! When you don`t like the message you shoot the messenger, which is exactly what Moriarty was attempting to do without offering substantive evidence to the contrary. How about they pay us the back taxes they cheated us out of before claiming they are “not being treated fairly”. Ask Conoco to look at their world portfolio, ask where they made profits and where they didn`t. They lost money everywhere in the world they produce oil and gas…. except “costly” Alaska. Of course Moriarty danced around that little fact as well, trying to make a case that Alaska would be “uncompetitive” if Conoco Exxon and BP had to pay a fair severance tax to the owners of the oil. That is the lie Moriarty is paid discredit at every chance, like a broken record, and she does it consistently by personally discrediting a witnesses who obviously knows far more than she does about the industry across the world. We have the rocks and they know it. They are not leaving Alaska if they are forced to pay a fair production tax like other oil provinces. A 5% “floor” on the gross would be fair at low prices, progressively higher as net profit rose.
      And thanks Rep. Tarr and Josephson for standing up for Alaskans and fairness, unlike the vote-conflicted and “illegally gerrymandered” republican Conoco caucus led by Chenault, Meyer and Micciche, all employees or oil contractors working for Conoco. Alaskans can add. That adds up to conflicted votes on oil tax legislation, like the one that passed SB21 by just one vote, thereby completing the giveaway of our oil essentially production tax free. https://www.adn.com/politics/2017/02/20/alaska-legislature-hires-oil-and-gas-consultant-who-worked-for-palin-administration/
      http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2011/06/ge-exxon-10-other-major-corporations-paid-negative-tax-rate
      …Moriarty and the publisher of this oily rag need to read up…and get fact-smacked.

    • Venezuela nationalized the oil industry. All we want is a fair production tax for the sale of our oil. Apples and oranges..but you knew that already didn’t you agimarc?
      Conoco was making 123% return on their investment in Alaska under the ACES tax system, but with the help of baloney peddling paid industry lobbyists like Moriarty and others. The Alaska oil lobby buried that fact and cried “poor poor us” along with Exxon and BP, and help from illegal gerrymandering of voting districts, producing oily Senators like Micciche and Meyer,.. all the while knowing they were protected by the SB21 layers of secrecy, and obfuscating costs and revenue numbers, making accurate auditing almost, but not quite,.. impossible. https://www.adn.com/energy/article/alaskas-million-barrel-battle-heats-years-oil-decline-predicted/2014/02/18/

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