BP promises investment in Alaska if oil tax break passes

BP's top Alaska official seconded the earlier pledge of Conoco Phillips to invest $5 billion on the North Slope if the governor's oil tax cuts pass, then promised even more but said he couldn't be specific.

In a lunchtime address and rally on Thursday billed by the Make Alaska Competitive Coalition as BP's chance to present "specific commitments" should the cuts pass, John Minge was short on details -- he said he didn't want to waste company money making plans that won't be pursued under the current tax regime.

But that didn't stop the 250 or so on hand from cheering when he said:

"People say, you know, 'Where's your promise, what can you promise?' When you haven't done all the work, you can't promise everything. But I guarantee you, what I will do is I'll stake my career on it -- I will stake my career and my reputation that this will make a big difference to Alaska and it will be good for all Alaskans."

The question of what the major oil companies will do in return for billions of dollars in tax savings has been one of the critical issues hanging up Gov. Sean Parnell's efforts to reduce state taxes when oil prices are high. He says that oil companies would invest more money in Alaska if taxes were lowered, creating jobs and putting more oil in the trans-Alaska pipeline.

But Republicans and Democrats in the state Senate have said those assurances are hollow without specific industry pledges. The House narrowly passed Parnell's bill March 31, but this week Senate leaders announced its death in their chamber this session.

On April 7, while the bill was still hanging by a thread in the Senate, Conoco Phillips chief executive Jim Mulva made a brief stop in Alaska to pledge $5 billion in investments in existing fields if taxes were lowered. Some of those plans would need the approval of BP, the operator and a large owner of the sprawling Prudhoe Bay field.

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