Editor's Note: The following is a condensed version of the presentation Bobbi Quintavell gave as one of three keynote addresses at the RDC Annual Meeting Luncheon in Anchorage June 19. She serves as President of Arctic Slope Regional Corporation. For the complete text, visit RDC's website at www.akrdc.org.
At Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC), our traditional values are what guide us each day. It is important for us to stay grounded in our heritage and where we have come from.
ASRC isn’t focused only on its past; it is working toward adapting to the changes we see on the horizon. We are trying to position ourselves to be proactive.
Sir Winston Churchill once stated, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” These are good words to live by, and the Inupiat have always known this to be true. We are eternal optimists, but we are also realists.
These are times when we need to be involved in the processes of change. Not as roadblocks because we are afraid of change, but as contributors to guide change. While we see the benefits from development through revenue, jobs, and improved infrastructure, these benefits do not come without a cost to the Inupiat people.
My perspectives are shaped both by the economic reality of growing a sustainable economy and by the desire to ensure that my children and others after them will have a livable and prosperous natural habitat. The strategic plan of ASRC sets forth the values of our people and the corporation. It states that we “blend Inupiat and business values in order to strengthen both.” That is our challenge as we move forward.
Thirty-plus years ago we were told that Natives couldn’t be good business people. We have worked very hard over those years to prove that theory wrong. ASRC has become a major Alaskan-owned business with gross revenues in excess of $1 billion.
One of the unique aspects of Alaska Native corporations is our revenue sharing provision Section 7(i). This provision allows all Alaska Native corporations to benefit from resource revenues received by one region, providing benefit to all Alaskan Natives. Through 2006, ASRC distributed $282,847,998 of 7(i) revenue, 37% of the total revenue shared by all Native corporations. Villages on the North Slope have received $22 million. Over two-thirds of the 7(i) revenue has been derived from two regions Sealaska and ASRC.
The fundamental result of 7(i) is that the corporation in the region where the resources are developed is in essence the managing partner on resource development for the other regions. This is an important point to understand because when you are negotiating with us for an exploration or development option, we not receiving 100% of the benefit of the final agreement.
In ASRC’s view, 7(i) discourages a landowning Native corporation from investing in its own resources. While the expense can be deducted against revenue, a 7(i) revenue source is needed for the deduction. This increases risk and uncertainty. As a result, many corporations are passive on their own lands. They generally enter into traditional lessee/lessor relationship, but will put significant emphasis on other non-revenue bearing provisions of an agreement.
Several key projects are on the drawing board to move natural gas to market. The future and realization of a gas pipeline are based on existing reserves of 35 trillion cubic feet and estimated reserves at more than 100 trillion cubic feet. This is where the excitement lies for the next several decades. The upside of more gas exploration means jobs and a long-term viable economy for Alaska. It could also mean industrial opportunities and expansions made possible by plentiful, reliable and reasonably priced natural gas.
There is substantial coal on the North Slope and on ASRC lands. These deposits may approach billions of tons. Most of the ASRC coal is very high quality and likely would have been developed if it were located in a more advantageous environment.
While our partner, BHP Billiton, is focused on exploring and defining coal reserves and working on conceptual engineering studies, what I am really excited about are the economic opportunities the communities of Pt. Lay and Pt. Hope are starting to realize.
These communities are located far from the Prudhoe Bay infrastructure and have never directly benefited from oil development on the North Slope. Our agreement with BHP Billiton requires them to enter into separate agreements with the two communities. It is our goal for them to build a strong tie to Pt. Lay and Pt. Hope and contribute to local economic sustainability.
For ASRC to finally have a partner to evaluate this enormous resource is a significant step towards realization of new energy development from the North Slope. Important to the success of this effort is the expansion of the Delong Mountain Terminal near Kivalina. ASRC, NANA, Teck Cominco and the governments of the Northwest Arctic and North Slope Boroughs are working together to develop and strengthen economic stability.
Development of this resource is important to our regions, and I include NANA in this statement. It has the capability of supplying many jobs to both regions. It will provide jobs in mining, power generation, administration, and opportunities in many other auxiliary areas. Jobs are the engine to an economy and a local economy is what will keep our communities healthy.
Coal development will bring very slim economic returns to ASRC, but it has the potential to provide a long-term stable economic base to the region. That is my mission and goal. The development that has taken place in the Arctic over the last 30 years has truly enhanced our lives.
The habitat and the environment we rely on for our subsistence resources have been well respected by the industrialists occupying some of that space with us. Not only have they respected the land, but they also respect the people who live there and work with them. Granted there have been some mistakes, but lessons have been learned. Technology and understanding has advanced significantly.
I actively participate with my family in our subsistence ways. When I leave the office and travel out on the tundra and ocean, I take very seriously the future of these resources and the habitat we need to survive on. We are doing a good job of ensuring economic and cultural freedoms for the Inupiat people.