August 12, 2012 --- Vol. 18, No. 58August 2012

Parnell, Murkowski blast feds for another Point Thomson delay

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell and the state’s senior U.S. senator, Lisa Murkowski, are crying foul over what they say is another federal permitting delay for ExxonMobil’s Point Thomson natural gas condensate development.

In weekend press releases, Parnell and Murkowski said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to delay its permit decision by two months, until late November. Parnell said it could be even later, until sometime in December.

Such a delay could dash plans to take advantage of the upcoming winter construction season, said Parnell and Murkowski, both Republicans.

“This unexplained delay threatens to set production at Point Thomson back another year, costing the state of Alaska both jobs and millions of barrels of crude oil that’s urgently needed to boost throughput in the trans-Alaska oil pipeline,” Murkowski said.

Parnell on Saturday fired a three-page letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, asking him to do something about “continued federal permitting delays” on Point Thomson.

The governor noted the Point Thomson project already is a year behind due to the Army Corps slipping on its schedule to complete an environmental impact statement and issue a “record of decision” on a dredge and fill permit.

The Interior Department, as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have provided input on the EIS.

The Corps issued the final EIS on July 27, and said it would issue a record of decision sometime after Aug. 27. That’s still what the Corps’ Point Thomson EIS website said Sunday.

ExxonMobil, in an Aug. 1 statement provided to Petroleum News, said it expected the Corps would make its decision and issue the permit “in late September.”

Now Parnell and Murkowski say they have information that the record of decision won’t come until late November at best. The governor, in a press release today, said the Corps had “recently informed state officials” of the delay.

The Point Thomson field is on state land, about 60 miles east of Prudhoe Bay. State officials have been pushing for its development for decades, and in March signed a legal settlement with ExxonMobil and its partners to deliver first production from the unit by the winter of 2015-16.

The project involves development of well pads and gas-handling facilities, as well as a 22-mile pipeline.

Although the Corps has completed the EIS, the question of exactly where to place the pads, roads, pipelines and related infrastructure remains unsettled. Options include moving certain elements farther inland, away from the Beaufort Sea coast. But ExxonMobil and the state don’t favor those options.

“Any major amendments to the proposed project should not happen during the last stages of the permitting process,” Parnell wrote Salazar.

—Wesley Loy

See story in Aug. 19 issue, available online at 11 a.m. Friday, Aug. 17, at

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