Alaska Superior Court Judge Sharon Gleason issued a decision May 22 denying motions filed by former Point Thomson unit leaseholders that would have effectively delayed the court’s hearing of the main Point Thomson lawsuit, therefore delaying the State of Alaska’s “effort to see this valuable resource developed,” the governor’s office said. ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips filed the main lawsuit when the state terminated the eastern North Slope unit late last year.
The May 22 decision, handed down by the same judge that will be hearing the main lawsuit, rules on two of the procedural motions the four companies have filed — earlier in May another judge ruled on another motion in favor of the state.
In the latest motions the companies asked the court to decide one of the issues on appeal separately and to not give deference to the agency’s expertise, questioning the state Department of Natural Resource’s right to administratively terminate the Point Thomson unit.
Gleason decided she would consider all of the appealed issues together and would determine the appropriate legal standard of review when she ruled on the appellate briefs, which is “consistent with normal appellate practice,” the governor’s office said. The judge, however, did allow documents presented by the companies into the record of appeal and identified two legal issues she wanted the parties to address in their appeal briefs.
Under the briefing schedule set by the judge, the former leaseholders’ briefs are due June 22, the state’s brief is due July 23, and the former leaseholders’ reply is due Aug. 13. The judge, the governor’s office said, will have a complete record ready for decision at the end of the summer.
In May 7 testimony to the Alaska Senate Judiciary Committee, Spencer Hosie, a top U.S. trial attorney, said the state would prevail in the main Point Thomson lawsuit after it spent “the next 60 days fighting about … procedural questions.”