Sophia Linklater Flather, from left, Lorraine Netro and Dana Tizya-Tramm travelled from Old Crow to Washington D.C. in 2017 to speak out on the potential drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

U.S. senator proposes retaliation over Canada’s ANWR lobbying effort

‘It was outrageous. They were going to every office in the Senate’

Frustrations over Canada’s lobbying to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) have pushed an Alaskan senator to propose changes to the way Alberta oil sands are taxed, according to news reports.

But a councillor with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation says the threat won’t stop the push to protect the reserve which contains the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd.

Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan has said he will introduce legislation to end a loophole which allows oil from Alberta’s oil sands to be exempt from paying into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which helps pay to cleanup spills.

Forcing Alberta oil companies to pay the nine-cent-per-barrel tax would mean an extra $47 million for the American government, according to a 2016 report quoted by Bloomberg.

According to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Sullivan said the change was under consideration before Canada opposed American efforts to open ANWR to drilling.

But, he added, “Let’s just put it — we were thinking about it. We hadn’t made a final decision. And their actions certainly helped us make the final decision.”

In the Bloomberg story Sullivan is quoted as saying of the Canadian lobbying efforts: “It was outrageous. They were going to every office in the Senate.”

A request to Sullivan’s office for comment was not returned in time for today’s deadline.

Changes to the American Tax Act in 2017 say the U.S. government must offer one oil and gas land lease sale in four years.

Officials have said the first sale could happen as early as next year.

The Canadian government, the Yukon government and the Gwich’in Nation, including the Vuntut Gwitchin, are among those who have spoken out against drilling saying it could have a dramatic affect on the herd which the First Nation considers sacred.

Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation councillor Dana Tizya-Tramm said the senator’s move is “absolutely not” going to change the Gwich’in’s efforts to lobby for ANWR protection.

“For a senator to threaten us with $47 million is nothing compared to a … multi-million-year-old caribou herd,” he said.

“As well I find it disingenuous to be threatening us with such a taxation loophole when that is something that their political body would be responsible for closing regardless of any activity on behalf of Canada and the Yukon.”

Tizya-Tramm said he’s equally unconcerned that the move by the senator could influence the Canadian federal government’s position.

“Canada and the Yukon Territory have been incredible partners and it’s just too bad that Mr. Senator Sullivan does not enjoy the same kind of comprehensive consultation under negotiations and legal frameworks that ensure strong partnerships.”

In a one-line statement emailed to the News by Yukon Liberal cabinet officials, Premier Sandy Silver is quoted as saying, “We remain committed to the conservation of the Porcupine Caribou herd and we stand with its First Nation and Inuvialuit partners to call for protecting this vital resource.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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