State regulators grant more time for public comment on BP-Hilcorp deal
Alaskans received a second extension to comment on the pending multibillion-dollar sale of BP’s assets to Hilcorp.
The Regulatory Commission of Alaska announced an extension through Dec. 13, “to allow the public, who previously may have experienced problems filing comments online, additional time to file comments now that the problems have been addressed.”
The RCA decided to afford the public more time and posted the change on its website last week — one day before the first extension expired.
The RCA oversees the performance of utilities and pipeline owners, including rates and operations. It’s reviewing a portion of the sale that would include owning three pipelines, including the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.
The pipelines transfer is part of the broader transaction that calls for Hilcorp purchasing BP’s assets for $5.6 billion, a deal expected to close sometime next year.
More than 100 comments have been filed with RCA so far with those on both sides of the transaction identifying problems with filing comments online.
Many have expressed concerns over the privately held Hilcorp’s request to keep its financial statements confidential.
The company cited previous RCA confidentiality rulings when writing “the need for confidentiality outweighs the public interest in disclosure of any Financial Statements, and good cause exists to classify the information as confidential.”
Others, however, believe the transaction and the stakes for the state are too big for confidentiality.
“Too little is known about [Hilcorp’s] finances, and there is not a mechanism for determining the assets they have or their capacity to deal with potentially very expensive liabilities,” wrote Kaarle Strailey of Palmer.
Francis Mauer of Fairbanks wrote the extension should be closer to 90 days saying the transaction should not come with hasty approval.
“Does Hilcorp have the financial resources and commitment to responsibly operate the former BP facilities in Alaska at a level to assure safety and environmental protection in our State?” he wrote. “This issue must be rigorously examined by the RCA and the Alaska Legislature before authorization of Hilcorp is approved.”
But David Cruz, president of oil field services contractor Cruz Construction, wrote a strongly worded support letter.
“We have worked alongside many of the oil industry's big players, but Hilcorp distinguishes itself with its high work standards, environmental and safety practices, and strategic investments in Alaska's future,” he wrote. “They have demonstrated themselves to be a well-managed company and possess the expertise necessary to succeed with the acquirement of BP assets.”
On Dec. 16, the House and Senate resources committees will hold a hearing on the sale. BP and Hilcorp are not expected to testify.
Instead, the committees will hear from various state agencies to learn their roles, said House Resources Co-Chair Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage.
“As I learned that we’re not a decision maker in the process, I became grounded in the idea that my role would be to provide information to the public,” she said. “So I’m pleased we’re having this hearing. I think that's the appropriate thing for us to do.”
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