Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Irwin has authorized processing of permits, including an ice road permit and drilling on two “conditionally reinstated” leases at Point Thomson.
Irwin said in a statement this afternoon that he has issued an interim decision in the pending lease termination appeals for the Point Thomson area.
Irwin terminated the unit last year, a decision which is under appeal in Superior Court. The Point Thomson leaseholders appealed an August termination of unit leases by Division of Oil and Gas Director Kevin Banks to Irwin and there was a hearing on that appeal Jan. 12-16.
Irwin said appellants — ExxonMobil was the operator at Point Thomson prior to termination of the unit; other major owners include BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips — “offered at the hearing that they have unconditionally committed to drilling two wells on two leases, including initiating actual drilling this winter season,” completing two wells by 2010 and beginning production from those wells by 2014.
He said he was reserving ruling on the other leases and issues in the appeal because the proceedings were not yet complete.
Irwin said in his statement that he issued the interim decision in response to testimony at the hearing “that if DNR issued the ice road permit by the end of this month,” ExxonMobil and the other owners “would proceed with their drilling commitments during this winter season.”
He said it was in the public interest to issue the ice road permit and process other necessary permits at this time, and said he was holding ExxonMobil to its “unconditional commitment, made under oath, to drill and produce from these wells.” Failure to abide by those commitments “will result in the automatic termination of these leases according to the lease terms,” he said.
See full story in the Feb. 1 issue of Petroleum News, which will be online at noon Friday, Jan. 30, at www.petroleumnews.com.