The Alaska Supreme Court has dismissed a state appeal in the Point Thomson case, an apparent prelude to a long-awaited settlement of the heavyweight struggle for control of the rich North Slope oil and gas field.
The high court acted after the state and oil companies with ownership interests in the disputed field jointly moved for the dismissal. Neither the one-page order nor the brief motion explain exactly why the state’s interlocutory appeal of an unfavorable lower court ruling was being dropped.
The reason, however, is expected to come to light at 11 a.m. today, when Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell and Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan plan to hold a press conference in Anchorage to talk about Point Thomson.
For months, the Parnell administration and ExxonMobil, the Point Thomson operator, have worked to finalize a settlement. The difficulty, Parnell had said, was getting other major owners in the field including BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips to sign onto the deal.
Today’s announcement could include details of how ExxonMobil might now develop Point Thomson. The lack of development decades after the field was discovered on leased state land was at the center of the legal conflict.
Parnell and Sullivan also are expected to discuss how the apparent Point Thomson settlement might affect efforts to build an Alaska natural gas pipeline. The field holds about a quarter of the North Slope’s 35 trillion cubic feet of gas, and thus is important for supporting a multibillion-dollar pipeline.