ANWR border dispute talks fail; IBLA ruling expected by year-end
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The high-level talks to resolve the ANWR border dispute between the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Alaska governor’s office either failed or never materialized because both a state and a federal official told Petroleum News they are waiting for a ruling on the matter from Interior’s Board of Land Appeals; a decision that is expected before the end of the year.
When Interior refused to transfer the 19,322 acres between the Canning and Staines rivers that run perpendicular to one another along the western side of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the state filed an appeal with IBLA, an administrative law court within Interior. A decision would either change the current border of ANWR and put the acreage in state’s hands or force the state to take the matter into the federal court system.
A senior Interior official told Petroleum News Jan. 7 “we are engaged at the highest level with the governor and his staff on the Canning/Staines river boundary issue,” suggesting an agreement could be reached much sooner than a decision from IBLA.
Interior press secretary Molly Block said July 8 that the matter was “still under litigation (with IBLA) and we expect it to be resolved before the end of the year.”
Dan Saddler. communications director for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, concurred with Block: “There is no progress to report … we are still waiting on IBLA,” he said.
If the state is awarded the land, existing state leaseholders with undeveloped oil discoveries such as Jade Energy’s Sourdough prospect and 88 Energy’s Yukon Gold, thought to hold oil pools that cross under ANWR’s current border, would gain valuable real estate - real estate they won in state lease sales and were awarded with a caveat acknowledging the boundary dispute with the feds.
Initially, Interior’s Bureau of Land Management had tentatively approved the lands between the Canning and the Staines rivers that had been selected by the state and then rescinded that approval under the conveyance process back in the ’60s.
The state once again started working on the ANWR boundary issue in 2012 during the administration of then-Gov. Sean Parnell, claiming the western boundary of ANWR had “been improperly mapped” for many years by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the refuge.
The Parnell administration’s renewed effort included historical and legal research as well as a field inspection by DNR and the Alaska Department of Law.
- KAY CASHMAN