Letters to the Editor

Posted: Friday, May 24, 2002

Marathon oil meeting raises more questions than it answers

Re: Tustumena Marathon oil meeting May 15.

As a professionally trained secretary, most notably known as the clerk pro temp for a large North Slope borough, I can assure this was not exactly an above-board meeting. First of all, there was a lack of chairs for tired and old folks attending the meeting; second, name cards were deliberately withheld suggesting chicanery.

Furthermore, when directly approached for this seeming lack of public courtesy, J. Brock Riddle of Anchorage (in charge of the mass mailing) stated he had found these loose types of meetings the best. Best for whom? Certainly not an uninformed public. The public at large does not comprehend Marathon operations unless they happen to work for them.

When I approached the men at the podiums asking for their cards, I was told that they had none and that "all PR had to go through one of two PR men." Obviously this question was anticipated.

So what did we learn? Sites of drilling along the coast down to Ninilchik and time schedules of drilling in Kasilof beginning Jan. 1 and going through September 2003. Much of everything else was confusing because no one appeared to unify or explain Marathon operations as a whole.

I left confused as to who was directly responsible for proposed gas line construction rumored to pass through Kasilof on the eastern part of the highway. The meeting appeared superficially fine (even had an unneeded touch -- a whole bunch of uneaten food; all you really need is chairs and refreshments) and consisted of two and one-half hours of question and answers around six podiums. Most people left within one-half hour due to lack of seating. To the trained eye, the meeting seemed more like a well-attended six-ring circus.

Now I have property on the eastern side of Sterling Highway where the new gas line is reputed to go (although no one knows its actual beginning, crossing or ending), and after seeing the timetable and drilling sites for gas, my questions were just beginning to rise. But when I spoke to Mr. Riddle about a future meeting, he told me he expected no follow-up. No follow-up during construction, my foot! They better coordinate and follow up during construction.

Here's a sample of questions anyone should have using that highway during construction:

1. How will this construction affect my entry and exits?

2. How will it affect my drainages and ditches?

3. How will it affect my communications and computer business at home?

4. How will traffic be impaired by debris and strewn rock on the highway?

5. How well will the company clean up after itself?

6. How will the work affect my berry picking area, etc.?

7. How quickly will my complaints be addressed?

8. How well will my complaints be addressed?

9. How well will my entry and exits be repaired to my satisfaction?

10. How accountable is Marathon or whoever constructs the gas line?

This is another fine example of fleecing the Alaska public by corporate behavior without a moral base. Moreover, it's a fine example of how unprofessionally meetings are assembled by inexperienced people in pants.

During the course of conversation, a sideline issue arose. How is it this state made second-class citizens out of Johnny-come-latelies by taking away their oil rights while giving them to other citizens? Wasn't that all the Zobel case was about? Creating second-class citizens?

This state had better never tax its people whose oil rights were denied, and it had better never put a cap on the permanent fund. A thousand lawsuits will follow the day that comes because we live under a "constitutional dictatorship," and nothing the state or federal government does is exempt.

Helen K. Tirrell , Kasilof

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