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Parnell urges Interior secretary to speed up Point Thomson approval

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch
Photo courtesy of ExxonMobil

After years of bitter court conflict over an oil and gas project at Point Thomson between the state of Alaska and ExxonMobil came to resolution this summer, now it's the Feds dragging their feet, according to a statement issued Sunday by Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell's office.

Parnell sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Sunday, encouraging him to expedite a pending federal decision on the Point Thomson project. Salazar is currently visiting Alaska, and Parnell's letter urges him to exercise authority to hasten approval of the project's Record of Decision (ROD).

Oil produced from Point Thomson, which contains Alaska's largest undeveloped oil and gas field, would stem the decline in throughput of the trans-Alaska pipeline, a central focus of the Parnell administration. It is also thought that the natural gas at Point Thomson is a major component to successfully building a long-imagined natural gas export pipeline in Alaska.

The statement on Sunday said that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently informed state officials that it is delaying until November "a major decision" on the plan, one which the governor's office says is "one in a series of federal delays."

The governor's office names two others: "One construction season was lost due to the Corps of Engineers’ delayed completion of the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which was originally anticipated to be issued in November 2010, but was delayed one year and instead issued on November 16, 2011. The final EIS for the project was issued on July 27, 2012."

Timely completion of the ROD is important to keep Point Thomson on schedule for development," the governor notes, "in particular, to enable construction to begin this winter. As part of its settlement of a long-standing dispute with the state, the field operator, ExxonMobil, has committed to first production of gas condensate from the field no later than the winter of 2015-2016."

That production goal was established as part of a recent settlement between the state and Exxon, announced at the end of March, which ended a legal conflict that stretched through three gubernatorial administrations.
 
Read a .pdf version of Gov. Parnell's letter to Secretary Salazar, here.