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Disputes rise over sharing ANWR's wealth
Anchorage Daily News


November 28, 2005

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A bitter rift over one regional Native corporation's exclusive rights to future oil revenues from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is bursting into public view with a call from other regional corporations for Congress to change the deal before it opens the refuge to drilling.

Saying it's a matter of fairness and justice, leaders of Sealaska Corp. and several other regions are preparing a last-minute pitch asking Congress to force the Arctic Slope Regional Corp. to share future oil revenues with other Native corporations. The stakes could involve hundreds of millions of dollars spread among the shareholders of other regions and villages.




Barrow-based ASRC received exclusive subsurface rights in the Arctic refuge's coastal plain under a 1983 land trade. The deal relieved the company from the usual revenue-sharing rules that govern Native corporation resources.

The dispute threatened to erupt last month at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention in Fairbanks. Many delegates said they were surprised to learn that ASRC was the only corporation likely to earn big money from oil and gas development in the refuge. But a resolution calling for change was withdrawn to maintain public unity and not disrupt delicate political negotiations in Washington over ANWR drilling in Washington.

Now individual Native corporations are moving ahead on their own. Sealaska president Chris McNeil issued a letter recently urging other regions to join his in asking Congress to make ANWR development subject to the 7(i) revenue-sharing provisions of the original Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

"ASRC's failure to share 7(i) revenues from its ANWR subsurface is patently unfair and unjust to all of the other Regional and Village corporations," McNeil wrote. Leaders of two other regional corporations, Ahtna Inc. and Calista Corp., said Friday that they are ready to join Sealaska's effort.

ASRC says it obtained the exclusive oil rights legally under rules upheld by binding arbitration in 1989. The company says legislation forcing it to give up some of its future revenues would amount to a "taking" by Congress - requiring compensation for the loss from the federal government.

ASRC chief operating officer Mark Kroloff said Friday that opening the refuge to oil drilling can help the entire state and public energies should be directed at that goal.

"I don't know if muddying the waters will be hurtful. But it can't be helpful," Kroloff said.

A move this fall by Alaska's congressional delegation to open ANWR to drilling as part of the federal budget package proved unexpectedly controversial in the House of Representatives. Moderate Republicans refused to pass the bill if ANWR was in it, and the bill only squeaked through the House once ANWR was removed. The drilling measure now hangs by a thread as negotiators try to craft a final version of the budget that can pass both the House and the Senate.


Distributed to subscribers by Scripps-McClatchy Western Service,

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