JUNEAU -- The Alaska Supreme Court on Thursday granted a request by the state and energy companies to drop its review of a case involving disputed leases on the Point Thomson gas fields.
Exxon Mobil Corp., which operates the Point Thomson unit, and other interest-owners -- including BP Exploration Alaska, ConocoPhillips Alaska and Chevron U.S.A. Inc. -- joined the state in asking that the review of the case by the high court be dropped.
The timing is important: Gov. Sean Parnell set an end-of-quarter deadline for the North Slope's major players -- Exxon Mobil, BP and ConocoPhillips -- to coalesce behind a major natural gas pipeline project. One of the big obstacles to that happening was settlement in the long-running Point Thomson lease case. The leases are seen as critical to the fortunes of a gas pipeline long sought in Alaska.
The end of the quarter is Saturday.
There was no immediate word about any possible settlement either in the request for dismissal or the supreme court's order. An Exxon Mobil spokesman, David Eglinton, refused comment, saying he "cannot confirm anything." BP Alaska spokesman Steve Rinehart also declined comment. There was no immediate comment from the state.
In October, Gov. Sean Parnell said the state had reached a settlement with Exxon Mobil but other interest-owners still had to sign off. At the time, Rinehart said his company and other owners asked to be involved in settlement talks but were not allowed. Rinehart also said the proposed agreement is complex.
In his State of the State address in January, Parnell called on the parties to resolve the case by Feb. 8 -- the date for oral arguments before the supreme court -- or he said the state would go before the court to "fight for Alaska's interests." Arguments were held, with Alaska's procedures for dealing with companies that buy leases -- but don't develop them -- debated.
An attorney for Leede Operating Co. LLC joined the state and other companies in signing the dismissal request.
By BECKY BOHRER