Hilcorp Can’t Buy Alaskan Confidence


Through Alyssa sappenfield

Updated: 2 hours ago Posted: 2 hours ago

Following the Alaskan petroleum tradition, Hilcorp Alaska, LLC and its subsidiary Harvest Midstream, LLC recently announced a new primary sponsorship of the 50th Anniversary Iditarod Race. It’s a tempting wellness story about them supporting the ‘Indomitable Spirit of Alaska’. In reality, it’s obvious that Hilcorp is trying to change its well-deserved nickname “Spillcorp” and buy Alaskan confidence through the world’s most famous sled dog race – a nice PR, if you can afford it. . But no amount of sponsorship can hide a record of polluting Alaska’s environment, endangering workers, and shirking the responsibilities that come with natural resource privileges.

If Hilcorp and Harvest both contribute like ExxonMobil did (before severing its iditarod sponsorship earlier this year), that’s at least $ 250,000 each. These dollars can be spent in part because private Texas corporations aren’t subject to the same corporate taxes BP has paid for decades. Alaskans will lose over $ 30 million a year in state revenue in perpetuity because of this amazing loophole.

Beyond the reduction in taxes, Hilcorp’s environmental record reads like a bad record. In the same week that the Alaska Regulatory Commission (RCA) controversially approved the sale of BP-Hilcorp last December, Hilcorp reported a leak of nearly 8,000 gallons in Cook’s underground pipeline. Inlet. In New Mexico, Hilcorp subsidiary Harvest was fined for failing to report a major spill in a waterway for 44 days. In April, another serious leak on the Cook Inlet MFS pipeline occurred under the direction of Hilcorp. Federal officials at the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHSMA) finally had enough, ordering Hilcorp to shut down and replace the aging line.

Lately, Hilcorp has been repeatedly identified as a major emitter, with nearly 50% more methane emissions from all of its operations than fossil fuel mega-producer ExxonMobil, although it pumps far less oil and gas. While Hilcorp could cover or take away its lower 48 woes from its Alaskan operations, these endemic issues and emissions come full circle with Hilcorp as the dominant owner of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), a pipeline facing increasing threats of a thaw. permafrost and increasing flooding. waters.

It’s easy to see how they can go under the radar. Recently, a coalition of global investors representing trillions of dollars specifically referred to the BP-Hilcorp deal as an illustration of secrecy.

Alaskans remember Hilcorp’s years-long bitter fight to keep the public in the dark about all the significant details of its takeover of BP’s assets in Alaska, despite public outcry demanding transparency in the greater trade agreement in Alaska for a generation.

After months of deafening silence, RCA quietly approved the transfer of Hilcorp-BP interests in the Trans-Alaska pipeline, Alyeska (pipeline system operating company) and the Valdez marine terminal. Unfortunately for the Alaskans, the CAR has done so in a closed and secretive manner – conveniently refusing to open a real evidentiary process as it does in much less significant cases and refusing to disclose basic details of the financial means of Hilcorp.

The CAR’s approval of the Hilcorp takeover minimized multiple findings of environmental and safety violations by other regulators and entirely failed to account for an oil spill like the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989 – despite CAR’s duty to examine Hilcorp’s suitability. Critical to transparency, the RCA has also twisted the precedent to create a new privacy loophole specially designed for Hilcorp that allows its core financial records to be kept secret even though no other TAPS owner has ever been authorized to do so. Regardless of whether Hilcorp should have received approval for its takeover of BP, at a minimum, CAR should have followed fundamental practices of good governance and transparency. Amid an extremely volatile time in the oil industry, it is impossible for ordinary citizens, lawmakers or subject matter experts to know if a prudent decision has been made because no public oversight has been allowed. . Alaskans cannot afford a disaster to tell us to do better.

In view of the CAR’s regressive decision on transparency, the town of Valdez – which has more at stake than any other community that owns the pipeline network and its terminal – has appealed the decision on constitutional and statutory grounds. . The Alaska Public Interest Research Group (AKPIRG) backed the town of Valdez’s appeal with an amicus brief as this case is now before the Alaska Supreme Court.

In any conversation about Hilcorp and the “Indomitable Spirit of Alaska”, it is everyday Alaskans and our communities who will persevere. Just ask around – try the Cook Inletkeeper sentries or even former Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC) Commissioner Hollis French, recently upheld by a Supreme Court ruling. Alaska’s claim that the AOGCC in fact had jurisdiction over a Hilcorp natural gas leak in 2017 and the request for a hearing to better investigate was wrongly dismissed. Hilcorp’s growing influence and its impact on our communities, our lands and our collective future demands that Alaskans remain vigilant.

Hilcorp cannot buy our trust. They must earn it by engaging honestly with the Alaskans, not just putting their name on a well-publicized banner.

Alyssa sappenfield is the energy analyst for the Alaska Public Interest Research Group. She lives and works on the lands of the Dena’ina people in Anchorage.

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