Sen. Murkowski Comments on Federal Delay of Point Thomson Review
Bureaucratic Foot-Dragging Endangers Crucial State Development Project
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today expressed concern that the Obama administration’s tactic of continually dragging out the federal permitting process, even for development on state-owned lands, is once again threatening to scuttle an important economic project.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this week announced it was delaying a final decision on a plan by Exxon Mobil and its partners to develop Point Thomson at least until Nov. 21. The Corps offered no justification for the postponement.
“This unexplained delay threatens to set production at Point Thomson back another year, costing the state of Alaska both jobs and millions of barrels of crude oil that’s urgently needed to boost throughput in the trans-Alaska oil pipeline,” Murkowski said.
Murkowski pointed out that the Corps had recently delayed a similar decision on the CD-5 project in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, setting back that project by nearly four years.
“Alaskans have waited four decades to see benefits from the rich oil and natural gas fields at Point Thomson. The state spent years negotiating with the leaseholders to get the field into production; to have the federal government slow walk the project just as we’re about to cross the finish line is unacceptable,” Murkowski said.
The Corps released a 500-page environmental impact study at the end of July for Exxon’s proposed natural gas cycling and condensate project at Point Thomson. After spending three years reviewing the proposal, Corps officials said they could make a final decision in 30 days.
Exxon officials had expected a final decision by the end of September, which would have allowed the company to begin work at the field this winter, including building a pipeline connecting Point Thomson with the trans-Alaska pipeline system 22 miles away at Prudhoe Bay.
Point Thomson is located on state-owned land 60 miles east of Prudhoe Bay. The estimated 8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas contained in Point Thomson is also a key resource in plans to develop a North Slope natural gas pipeline project.
The Point Thomson project is the result of years of negotiations between the state of Alaska and Exxon and the other companies with leases at the field. Under the agreement reached with the state, production of 10,000 barrels of condensate, or high quality natural gas liquids, a day was scheduled to begin in 2016.
“Point Thomson has been under review for years. There’s no reason for federal officials to drag their feet any longer,” Murkowski said. “I’m greatly disappointed with the performance of the Army Corps of Engineers and I will bring this issue to the attention of both the leadership of the Army Corps and the White House.”