Public information request
turns up heat on Murkowski administration
April 06, 2006
Sen. Hollis French (D-Anchorage)
on Wednesday delivered a public records request to Gov. Frank
Murkowski, urging the administration to finally release the long-touted
but as yet unseen natural gas pipeline contract.
Several legislators on both
sides of the aisle have expressed frustration with the administration's
refusal to release the pipeline contract. The frustration
springs from the strong suggestions from Murkowski and others
that the contract is linked to the historic oil tax reform legislation
now being debated in House and Senate committees.
The governor announced that a pipeline agreement had been reached
when he delivered his oil tax reform (PPT) bills to the Legislature
in late February. Since that time, Murkowski has vacillated on
the degree of linkage between the tax reform and the gas pipeline
contract. The governor has also been ambiguous about whether
or not the contract is actually complete. He has suggested that
should the Legislature change the 20/20 tax to credit formula
in his bill, the major producers would pull out of the gasline
contract. At the same time, Murkowski has said he would release
the contract to the Legislature only after the PPT vote is completed.
He has claimed a confidentiality clause in the Stranded Gas Act
prevents the administration from releasing the contract.
"The contract itself is not protected by the act,"
French said. "The Stranded Gas Act protects proprietary
information and materials generated in preliminary drafts of
the contract. The contract must be released eventually,
so it can't possibly contain proprietary information. The governor
has made it very clear that the contract is linked to the oil
tax, so he's asking the Legislature secure a fair deal for Alaskans
with one hand tied behind our backs. He said the contract is
complete, and therefore it belongs to the Alaskan people. It's
time to stop playing 'blind man's bluff. We need to see
the contract now."
French requested a copy of the contract from Department of Revenue
Commissioner Bill Corbus on March 7. Corbus denied the request,
but in his own response wrote that the statute protects only
those "documents that 'reflect, incorporate or analyze'
information relevant to the development of the position or strategy
of the state with respect to a SGDA contract provision."
French contends that, based upon that definition, once any portion
of the contract is complete it becomes a public record, and it
must be disclosed.
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