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State Requests Reconsideration of Injunction on Chukchi Exploration


August 3, 2010, Juneau, Alaska - The State of Alaska filed a brief in U.S. District Court aimed at removing all or part of an injunction against exploration activities under oil and gas leases in the Chukchi Sea.

"There are enormous consequences for Alaskans if this development is stymied," Governor Sean Parnell said. "The public interest is in preventing the hardship Alaskans will suffer from lost jobs and economic growth if the injunction remains in place."

A federal judge on July 21 issued the injunction affecting the 2008 lease sale of 2.76 million acres, which brought in bids of nearly $2.7 billion. The judge did not vacate the leases but said a federal agency must improve upon an environmental review that he ruled was deficient.

The State of Alaska, an intervening party in the lawsuit, argues that the balance of interests weighs heavily in favor of the jobs, economic development and state revenue at stake, as opposed to minimal environmental risks with exploration.

"The injunction will put Alaskans out of work," said Attorney General Dan Sullivan. "On the other hand, risks to the environment are minimal. In such situations, the U.S. Supreme Court has indicated that injunctions are not appropriate."

In its brief requesting reconsideration of the injunction, the state notes that a lease confers the right to conduct only very limited activities, such as seismic testing, and that further administrative approval would be required for full-blown development.

Sullivan also noted that the federal Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act calls for "expeditious and orderly development" of the OCS, and said courts should give due deference to this congressional policy.

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