Alaska editorial: Credit for Point Thomson dissolution is due ex-Gov.

Posted: Sunday, June 03, 2007

There's been much in the news about state leaders being pleased with recent court rulings supporting the state's dissolution of the Point Thomson unit on the North Slope and the many leases that constituted it.

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What people don't seem to say, however, is that they are pleased that it was the administration of Gov. Frank Murkowski that terminated the unit after frustration with Exxon Mobil, which had authority over the unit on behalf of itself, BP and several other companies.

It was the Murkowski administration that, in its final days, undertook the final acts to get this rich area of oil and gas back in the hands of Alaskans after a few decades of inactivity by the leaseholders. The companies are appealing through the courts on a couple of fronts, and more hearings are scheduled for this summer on issues that include the oil companies' claim that the state didn't have the right to terminate the leases. In the meantime, an Anchorage Superior Court judge told Exxon and the other Point Thomson interests a few weeks back that they needed to post the combined $20 million penalty they had agreed long ago to be subject to if they didn't develop the leases. The judge said the companies could instead, if they choose, post a $25 million bond with the court.

Point Thomson is indeed a resource-rich place on the North Slope. It holds an estimated 300 million barrels of oil and 8 trillion to 9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, making it an essential piece of a natural gas pipeline project.

The state has a clear interest in seeing Point Thomson developed. That's what the Murkowski administration saw.

Credit for the act of reacquiring the Point Thomson leases needs to go where it belongs.

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