April 30, 1998 --- Vol. 4, No. 19April 1998

State intervenes with court filing in support of Alpine oil development

Saying the Alpine oil project has been subject to rigorous environmental review by both the state and federal governments, the state of Alaska filed legal briefs with the U.S. District Court today in Washington, D.C., in support of development of the North Slope oil field, Gov. Tony Knowles said in a written statement.

The state motion with the court seeks to intervene in a lawsuit filed March 18 by four environmental groups that want to void the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' wetlands permit for the Alpine development, claiming that the Corps should have completed an environmental impact statement instead of an environmental assessment. The state argued that it as landowner, royalty holder, taxing authority and primary environmental regulator, it has a broad range of interests to protect and therefore should be allowed to intervene in the lawsuit .

The environmental assessment was required by the National Environmental Policy Act, Knowles said. Additionally, state permits were required from the departments of environmental conservation, fish and game and natural resources. The project was subjected to a consistency review under the Alaska Coastal Management Program.

"The potential environmental impacts of oil and gas development were evaluated well before any leases were issued and reviewed in a public process that resulted in 55 lease stipulations," Knowles said. "In addition to this rigorous environmental review, ARCO Alaska has made significant commitments to improve the quality of the human environment for local residents in connection with development of this state resource.

"With the use of innovative exploration and development techniques developed from over 20 years of Arctic oil experience, I believe the Alpine project is an example of 'doing it right'," Knowles said. "The Alpine project has undergone detailed and intensive review by state and federal agencies. Development of this field can be done in an environmentally responsible manner and provide jobs, revenues and energy for the people of Alaska and residents of nearby villages."

Development of the Alpine field, located near the North Slope's Colville River delta, approximately 35 miles west of the Kuparuk oil field and 8 miles north of the village of Nuiqsut, will impact fewer than 100 acres of the approximately 80,000-acre Colville River unit. No permanent road will be made to the central processing facilities; access will be by ice road in the winter and plane in the summer. The field, which is thought to hold more than 365 million barrels of oil, will be connected to the trans-Alaska pipeline system at Kuparuk by means of a pipeline that runs beneath the Colville River.

The four environmental groups that filed the suit are the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, the Alaska Center for the Environment, Equinox Wilderness Expeditions and Trustees for Alaska.

The court has not yet scheduled a hearing on the matter. The state said it hopes the case will be resolved quickly so development can proceed as scheduled.

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