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March 25, 2011 --- Vol. 17, No. 26March 2011

Alaska Supreme Court questions whether Point Thomson negotiations are ‘serious’

The Alaska Supreme Court is growing impatient with settlement talks between ExxonMobil and the state in the Point Thomson case.

On March 7, the two sides asked the court to stay the case for another 60 days while they continue negotiations to resolve the fight for control of the rich Point Thomson oil and gas field.

But the court on March 21 granted a stay of only 45 days — and indicated it’s not inclined to keep the case on hold any longer.

“The parties have received previous extensions of time and stays totaling over 200 days,” the court said in a two-page order. “This amount of extended and stayed time would seem to have been more than sufficient to allow the parties to settle this case if the parties were serious about settlement and had been making deliberate, good faith efforts to do so. No further stay will be granted for this reason absent extraordinary and compelling showing that substantial progress towards settlement is being made and that additional time is very likely to achieve a global settlement.”

The state, which is trying to dissolve the Point Thomson unit for lack of development by the leaseholders, appealed to the high court after an adverse Superior Court ruling in January 2010.

But the case has been at a virtual standstill ever since, as lawyers for the state and ExxonMobil have repeatedly asked for time to try to settle the case out of court. The timeouts relieve the lawyers of the burden of writing heavy legal briefs.

In its order, the Supreme Court set a deadline of May 5 for the state to file its opening brief.

Other major Point Thomson stakeholders — Chevron, BP and ConocoPhillips — have complained the state and ExxonMobil, the field operator, have shut them out of the negotiations.

See story in the April 3 issue, available online at 11 a.m. Friday, April 1 at www.petroleumnews.com.

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