In a Facebook post on June 8th, Sarah Palin wrote, “As a CEO, it was my job to look out for the interests of Alaskans with the same intensity and action as the oil company CEO’s looked out for the interest of their shareholders”. Palin’s Facebook post is misleading as she was never CEO of anything. However we might agree that her actions were comparable to those of British Petroleum. Statements of the half-term-ex-Governor in Going Rogue indicate that it was her goal to align the interests of the citizens of Alaska with those of oil companies, which included BP. She viewed the people of Alaska, in the same way BP views its shareholders. Palin takes credit for the Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share (ACES) legislation. She explains that she and her “astute team of experts” take credit for aligning the interest of residents of Alaska with the BP shareholders (Palin 162-163). After calling a special session of the Alaska legislature, Palin and her team devised a system that allowed Alaska to share in the profits of the oil companies operating in Alaska. One year after Palin and the Alaska legislature approved the creation of the ACES program the state and oil companies, including British Petroleum, significantly increased their profits (164). Thus Palin was true to her word. She was motivated to increase the net profits of Alaska, just like BP was motivated to make as much money as it could. If BP made a lot of money, so did Alaska. The effect of ACES was to convert the position of the state from that of a royalty owner to a shareholder (164). Royalty owners do not bear the expense of production. so if BP engaged in dangerous, environmentally hazardous activity, the people of Alaska did not benefit. After Palin’s brilliant plan, if BP cut expenses by engaging in dangerous, environmentally hazardous activities, both BP and Alaska made money. If Alaska made money Palin looked like a hero.
Heroes are not usually quitters. Palin has experience quitting jobs where she was charged with protecting the public interest of the people of Alaska. Palin was appointed by Governor Murkowski in 2003 to serve as a Commissioner of Alaska’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOCGG). She resigned that position in 2004, less than one year after she was appointed. There are conflicting reports by Palin about the reason for her resignation from the AOGCC. In Going Rogue, Palin explained that after “I prayed long and hard” she resigned from the AOGCC, suggesting that she could “effect change” from the outside (Palin 99). However Going Rogue is completely void of any reference to any attempt she made to “effect change” from the outside. Other sources quote Palin as explaining her reason for resignation from the AOGCC as it “…was more than I bargained for in terms of what the job is”.
Todd Palin worked on the North Slope of Alaska for British Petroleum for eighteen years. Recognizing a potential conflict of interest in 2007 before Sarah resigned as Governor, Todd took a voluntary leave from BP when it became involved in natural gas pipeline negotiations with the state of Alaska. At that time he was employed as a production supervisor. Seven months later, in spite of concerns regarding a conflict of interest, Todd returned to BP. Sarah explained, “I mean we’re still fairly young and we’ve got kids going into college. Some governors and their spouses, I’m sure are independently wealthy, but we’re not on of those couples.”
Former state Representative Ethan Berkowitz did not agree with Todd’s decision to return to work. Berkowitz explained, “It’s bad timing. It’s a tough situation for the family, but I think the interests of the state have to come first. In the interest of the state, you need to make sure you’re above the appearance of impropriety.”
Todd Palin continued to work for BP for two years, before abruptly announcing his decision to resign in September 2009. After 18 years of employment, Todd’s resignation occurred immediately after Sarah’s resignation. By July 26, 2009 Sean Parnell was sworn in as Governor. Within roughly one and one-half months after Sarah Palin left her position as Governor, Todd left BP. While Todd and Sarah were on the road to becoming independently wealthy, they hadn’t reached that destination yet. The kids were still not pursuing a college education. The pivotal point for Todd’s resignation seemed to be Sarah’s resignation as Governor.
From the moment Sarah Palin came to the attention of the national media, the only “policy” slogan we might associate with her, that was more specific than “common sense conservatism” was “drill-baby-drill.” Admittedly, Barack Obama advocated a more environmentally responsible program of energy development, with the clear goals of protecting the environment and working towards energy independence. Initially Obama was not in favor of additional off-shore drilling, but on March 31st he unveiled a plan to expand the U.S. coastal areas available for offshore drilling. Some might have expected Palin to have claimed victory. Some might have anticipated that Palin would have suggested that the President had learned something from her. Wrong! Instead Sarah complained that Obama’s plan was a “joke”.
Sarah’s new slogan became “stall-baby-stall”. Palin explained that she doesn’t like the President’s plan because there were going to be “studies” associated with the proposed plan for off-shore drilling. Palin explained:
- “As the former governor of one of America’s largest energy-producing states, a state oil and gas commissioner, and chair of the nation’s Interstate Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, I’ve seen plenty of such studies. What we need is action…Arctic exploration and development is a slow, demanding process. Delays or major restrictions in accessing these resources for environmentally responsible development are not in the national interest or the interests of the State of Alaska.”
Palin has been an outspoken advocate for less governmental influence in our lives. Maybe Palin intended her resignation to be an example of her commitment to that end.
Even though Palin resigned her positions as the Governor, and her position as the Oil & Gas Commissioner of Alaska and even though she hoped we had forgotten her mottoes of “drill-baby-drill”, and “stall-baby-stall” she now suggests that the government should somehow magically fix the spill in the Gulf. Her criticism of President Obama would suggest that he should be better equipped to determine the best way to cap a deep water leak than the “experts” who drilled the well. Palin has the gall to suggest that the President should call her for advice. Maybe if President Obama needed advice about killing animals, damaging the environment, causing the loss of life in oil field explosions, or resigning from his elected position he would call Palin. She seems to have expertise in each.
Between 1942 and 2010, Alaska experienced contamination of over 25,000 sites. During the time Palin was the head of the Oil & Gas Commission for Alaska and the Governor, Alaska faced several major oil spills. One of the largest was on the North Slope., which occurred in 2006. This spill in Prudhoe Bay resulted in an estimated 267,000 gallons of thick crude oil spilling out into the tundra of the North Slope. The North Slope is the place where Todd Palin worked for BP. I wonder if he got any oil on his lunch that day.
The Prudhoe Bay oil fields and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline have caused an average of 409 spills annually. Since 1996 the Alaskan wilderness has been contaminated by over 1.9 million gallons of toxic substances on the North Slope alone. Over 22,000 acres of tundra, wetlands, floodplains, and other habitats have been directly lost due to oil production and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. Investigations into the Prudhoe Bay spill uncovered many examples of a corporate philosophy that promoted ignoring repeated warning about corrosion and failure to comply with environmental standards. It was the workers on the pipelines and midlevel managers, like Todd Palin, who indicated that BP had a corporate philosophy that it was cheaper to disregard environmental standards than to pay for any expenses associated with an environmental disaster.
Devastation from oil spills in Alaska has had long lasting and expansive effects. Air pollution is just one major type of collateral damage. Prudhoe Bay air pollution has been detected almost 200 miles away in Barrow, Alaska. Annual emissions from the oil industry on the North Slope from nitrogen oxides are approximately 70,000 tons. To put this in perspective, that is more than twice the emissions of Washington D.C. In addition to nitrogen oxide, the North Slope oil facilities annually release large quantities of greenhouse gases, including 24,000 metric tons of methane and 7.3 to 40 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
The irrefutable conclusion is that Sarah and Todd Palin were the Alaskan couple most likely to be aware of the total disregard by BP for environmental safety standards. Sarah Palin was in a position to mandate change, but she quit. The Gulf Oil Spill has sharpened our focus on the complete abandonment by Sarah Palin of any responsibility for the people of Alaska, or the citizens of the Gulf. The half-term-ex-Governor was empowered by the people of Alaska to protect them. She knew when she left her position as Governor that BP has a long history of engaging in cost saving measures at the expense of safety and the environment (Palin 95).
Palin wrote in Going Rogue that during her campaign for Governor:
- “…I’d tell voters there’s a lot riding on this election, including the trust of future generations. We need new energy and someone with a stiff spine to fight for you…I promised that if they hired me as their governor…I won’t let you down” (109).
I am sure the people of Alaska felt Palin “let them down” by her resignation. Senator Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska said, “I am deeply disappointed that the governor has decided to abandon the state and her constituents before her term has concluded”. Republican strategist and CNN contributor Ed Rollins said that Palin’s resignation made her look, “terribly inept”. Converting the royalty payments owed by BP to Alaska, made possible by Palin’s “astute team of experts” may have rewarded BP’s practice of cutting corners at the expense of safety and the environment. “Terribly inept” may be too kind. Tragically irresponsible may be more accurate.