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Expect an oil broil in 2014 Republican race for Alaska governor

Alex DeMarban

A fired-up Bill Walker came out swinging on Friday within minutes of Gov. Sean Parnell's announcement that he'll seek reelection, blasting him for doing little to help the state of Alaska while doing plenty to help Big Oil.

Walker, a Republican and oil and gas attorney, said oil companies shouldn't be blamed for their political successes in the 49th state. That includes their recent victory, courtesy of Parnell's legislation, giving them a tax break worth an estimated $750 million a year.

"They are not the problem, by the way. We are," Walker said, referring to an administration he believes is soft on protecting the state's top public resources, oil and gas.

Parnell's announcement in Fairbanks on Friday, and Walker's opposition, sets the stage for a Republican primary that will often hover around hydrocarbons. Oil, the lifeblood of Alaska, is dwindling to scary levels as production wanes in two of the nation's biggest fields.

With Parnell -- former head of government relations for ConocoPhillips -- Alaskans won't get an impartial view of how his tax break is performing, Walker said.

He also slammed recent statements by the governor that his freshly passed legislation has already sparked new investment, including by the Spanish oil company Repsol. The legislation isn't scheduled to go into effect until Jan. 1.

"Good grief, the bill isn't even signed yet," Walker said.

The false promises and stall tactics over developing Alaska's natural gas must end, too, he said. The state needs to own a large-diameter natural gas line and get that gas to market. That includes getting it to Alaskans across the state as cheaply as possible.

Too many state leaders have let Big Oil use the gas line as a political pawn to lower their taxes.

"That will end with me," he said. "We give away more and more for what? I'm not in the give-away business. I'm not in the study-hall business. I'm in the building business and we need someone who's going to get this line moving."

Contact Alex DeMarban at alex(at)alaskadispatch.com