Governor Walker will File Legislation, Drop Point Thomson Lawsuit

Governor Bill Walker today announced during a House Resources committee hearing he will drop his public interest litigant lawsuit on Point Thomson once he submits legislation on Friday to ensure the state Constitution and state laws are never again violated in negotiations to develop Alaska’s natural resources. Image-Office of the Governor
Governor Bill Walker today announced during a House Resources committee hearing he will drop his public interest litigant lawsuit on Point Thomson once he submits legislation on Friday to ensure the state Constitution and state laws are never again violated in negotiations to develop Alaska’s natural resources. Image-Office of the Governor

Saying that the Point Thomson lawsuit he brought against the state of Alaska was initiated to stand up for Alaskans, Governor Walker said he will dismiss the litigation after filing legislation that will strengthen statutes dealing with future oil and gas settlement negotiations.

The governor pointed out that previous administrations had violated the Alaska Constitution and laws as it bypassed the public process during settlements of litigation, and points out that his legislation will make sure that those violations cannot be made again by future administrations.

The governor sid on Wednesday “My challenge to the Point Thomson settlement is not about ExxonMobil. This lawsuit is not about stopping the development of Point Thomson. It is about following our Constitution and our laws in the development of our natural resources.”

The governor stated that a few of the illegal acts that violated the Alaska Constitution and Alaska Law were:

  1. The Settlement attempts to contract around the Department of Natural Resource’s Regulatory Authority in managing the Point Thomson Unit.
  2. The Settlement attempts to alter the regulatory Plan of Development process.
  3. The settlement results in the abrogation of the Commissioner of DNR’s obligation to make findings under 11.AAC.83.303, thus leaving the method of field development up to the Working Interest Owners.
  4. The State agreed to stand down and not object to any issues regarding the development of the Point Thomson Unit brought before the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission by the Working Interest Owners.
  5. The State agreed to an alternate method of dispute resolution other than what is set forth in Alaska statute.

The 93,000 acres that are the Point Thomson Unit, containing 38 leases, was first leased out to Richfield Oil, Humble Oil and BP in 1965, then when Exxon discovered large oil and gas deposits in the main Thomson reservoir, they were approved as the unit operator in 1977.

But, Exxon would continue to drag there feet for 22 years, issuing a Plan of Development each year but despite the PODs, no development occurred. The 23rd POD issued by Exxon was ultimately rejected by then Governor Frank Murkowski after the first lawsuit spear-headed by Walker in 2005.

In 2008, Exxon was notified that their leases had expired, as a result, Exxon would drrill for the first time in two decades. In 2012, a signed settlement between the state and Exxon was signed. But, that settlement agreement was found to have violated Alaska’s Constitution and Laws, and as a result Walker initiated the lawsuit that he stated he will dismiss after stronger legislation is filed.

The lawsuit brought on by Walker sought no monetary damages.