May 06, 2002 --- Vol. 8, No. 51May 2002

Supreme Court rules against state in Redoubt exploration plan appeal

The Alaska Supreme Court has overturned a Division of Governmental Coordination consistency determination for exploration activities at the Osprey platform in Cook Inlet and told the agency to start over.

The court, ruling May 3 in a suit brought by Cook Inlet Keeper, said that the existence of a general wastewater discharge permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency "could not by itself justify completely excluding the subject of wastewater discharge activities from the Osprey project's project-specific consistency review. Nor could it excuse the state from complying with its usual duty to take a hard look at the whole Osprey project..."

Cook Inlet Keeper appealed the September 1999 final consistency determination of Forest Oil Corp.'s Redoubt Shoal exploration drilling from the Osprey platform. Forest Oil intervened in the case before the superior court, which affirmed the state's decision, "concluding that the state properly excluded the Osprey's exploration-related discharges from the project's consistency review process because those activities had already been considered and found to be consistent with the Coastal Program in the state's consistency review…"

Cook Inlet Keeper appealed the superior court decision, "arguing that the state impermissibly omitted the Osprey's wastewater discharge activities from the project's consistency review."

"Because the state had a statutory duty to conduct a project-specific consistency review encompassing all activities for which the Osprey projected needed a permit, including a general permit that already existed, we reverse and remand for a new consistency determination," the Alaska Supreme Court said.

Cook Inlet Keeper, which wants exploratory wastes reinjected, said May 6 that the Supreme Court has also affirmed an April 19 injunction halting drilling of the fifth exploration well at Redoubt.

Forest Service to release environmental assessment for Katalla drilling

The U.S. Forest Service has completed its environmental assessment for Cassandra Energy Corp.’s proposed oil and gas exploration drilling at the historic Katalla oil field, site of the first commercial oil production in Alaska. The agency will release copies of the EA this week, triggering a 30-day public comment period on Cassandra’s proposed plan of operations, a Forest Service official told PNA.

The plan of operations consists of two parts. The first part addresses activities that will take place on private land within the boundaries of Chugach National Forest and includes the establishment of a crew camp and the drill site. The second part is concerned with activities that occur on National Forest System lands, including access to the drill site which involves construction of a barge offloading site, establishment of a temporary staging area, and use and maintenance of an existing temporary access road.

Cassandra plans to directionally drill from private land into Chugach Alaska Corp.’s reserved oil and gas estate. The Native regional corporation’s rights to the 10,680 acre subsurface estate expire and revert to the federal government if paying quantities of oil and gas are not established by Dec. 31, 2004.

The proposed project area is near the old town site of Katalla, approximately 56 miles southeast of the city of Cordova. According to Forest Service paperwork, Cassandra plans to drill a well to a depth of 9,000-9,500 feet with a horizontal displacement of approximately 3,000 feet.

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