Alaskans split over proposed BP sale during six hours of public comment

Dana Dardis raised concerns about Hilcorp’s environmental record at Tuesday’s Regulatory Commission of Alaska meeting, and demanded financial transparency. Her vest read: “We have the right to know.” (Tegan Hanlon/Alaska Public Media)

A state regulatory commission heard from dozens of people Tuesday about oil company BP’s proposed sale of its entire Alaska business to Hilcorp.

It was the first time Alaskans could provide in-person comments to the Regulatory Commission of Alaska about one of the state’s biggest oil industry deals.

The five-member RCA will ultimately decide whether to approve the portion of the pending $5.6 billion sale that includes BP’s stake in the 800-mile trans-Alaska pipeline.

RCA Chairman Robert Pickett on Tuesday in downtown Anchorage. (Tegan Hanlon/Alaska Public Media)

Over six hours Tuesday, about 100 people weighed in. They each had up to three minutes to comment. And they split over what the commissioners should do, and how they should do it.

Some pushed for the RCA to sign off on the deal. They told the commissioners it was in the best interest of the state’s economy, and would lead to more jobs for Alaskans. They called attention to Hilcorp’s experience in Cook Inlet and on the North Slope, and highlighted the company’s work in older oil fields.

“Hilcorp has already demonstrated to Alaska that it can increase oil production in aging fields,” said Alaska Chamber’s Allen Hippler. “It goes without saying that during this challenging fiscal time Alaska needs more production to help fund vital public services.”

Alaska Chamber’s Allen Hippler urged the RCA to approve the transaction “first and foremost because the business community sees the transfer as necessary to the well-being of the state’s economy.” (Tegan Hanlon / Alaska Public Media)

But others said they had too many concerns about Hilcorp, including the company’s environmental and safety records. They called for more vetting, more time and a public hearing. They demanded Hilcorp publicly disclose audited financial statements.

Read our continuing coverage of the pending BP sale

“Alaskans deserve to be informed on this decision as decision makers in this process and as owners of our resources,” said Anchorage resident Jenny-Marie Stryker. “And we should know whether Hilcorp will be able to handle a potential tens-of-billions-of-dollars cleanup.”

People waited their turn in downtown Anchorage Tuesday to speak in front of the Regulatory Commission of Alaska. (Tegan Hanlon/Alaska Public Media)

Hilcorp is asking that its finances be kept confidential during the commission’s review process. The commission has given itself until Feb. 11 to decide on that request.

On Tuesday, the commissioners didn’t respond to any of those providing comment. In a statement, the RCA said it will consider what was said at the meeting in its dockets on the pending transaction.

Before Tuesday, it had also received more than 200 written comments.

The commission has not yet provided a timeline for a final decision on the proposed deal.