Politics & Government

Supreme Court to hear Valdez tax case

The city of Valdez and a major operator of oil tankers will clash in the U.S. Supreme Court in early April over whether the city can levy property taxes on ships visiting Valdez to pick up cargo.

At stake are millions of dollars in taxes that Valdez officials say they need for local government and schools, but which the tanker company contends are unconstitutional collections.

Polar Tankers Inc. appealed to the nation's highest court – and justices accepted the case in December – after the Alaska Supreme Court ruled in favor of Valdez last April.

Polar operates five double-hull tankers for parent company Conoco Phillips, the state's top North Slope oil producer.

Bill Walker, an attorney for Valdez, said he was surprised to see the tax case reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

"When we prevailed in the Alaska Supreme Court, we thought that would be the end of it," he said. "This is a very big deal for the city."

While other tanker operators including BP, Exxon Mobil and Tesoro have reached long-term settlements on the tax with Valdez, Conoco for years has paid the tax under protest while pressing legal efforts to kill it.

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