ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — An attorney who previously fought cases against Alaska's biggest oil companies has turned to activism and donations to help an effort to increase oil taxes for the public's benefit.
Robin Brena is chairing a citizens initiative to raise oil taxes and has become the effort's top funder with more than $100,000 contributed, Alaska's Energy Desk reported.
The Fair Share Act would levy what Brena’s side estimates would be an additional $1 billion in taxes on the state’s biggest producers including BP PLC, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil Corp.
“I’m an Alaskan first and foremost, and I’m going to stand up for Alaska. And I want to be sure that Alaska gets a fair deal for their oil,” Brena said.
Brena, 64, previously worked for Alaska municipalities seeking more property tax revenue from the companies, which are the primary owners of the trans-Alaska pipeline.
Brena won hundreds of millions of dollars for his clients and millions of his own through the victories.
For nearly three decades he largely stayed away from politics, investing money in commercial real estate business, until the state Legislature passed an industry-supported rewrite of Alaska’s oil tax laws in 2013.
Opponents of the measure tried to repeal the bill at the polls through a 2014 referendum, but lost the public vote to an industry-backed campaign.
Brena supported the repeal effort and has donated generously to like-minded political candidates to achieve residents' "fair share” in production taxes from the state’s largest oil-fields.
Critics argue Brena’s campaign ignores the downsides of higher taxes, including the risk of lower oil company investment, less oil production and fewer jobs.
Brena argues Alaskans have been getting spin from the companies since the 2013 tax rewrite and he is convinced voters will make a different choice with more information.
“I believe Alaskans don’t know all the details perhaps, because they can’t be known,” Brena said. “Because we’re treated like mushrooms – you know, we’re kept in a dark room, and we’re fed cow manure.”