Alaska gov. asks AG to intervene to allow off-shore oil exploration‏

Nick Rees Dec. 23, 2009, 5:45pm

JUNEAU, Alaska (Legal Newsline) - Attorney General Dan Sullivan has received a request from Gov. Sean Parnell to intervene in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold a federal decision that allows the Shell oil company to proceed with exploration for off-shore oil.

"The state filed this motion to intervene because it has a duty to develop its natural resources, promote economic development and make economic opportunities available to its citizens," Sullivan said. "This balance of interests is unique to the state, and will not be adequately represented by any other party in this appeal."

The state's Outer Continental Shelf is believed to hold an estimated 27 billion barrels of recoverable oil and an estimated 130 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, which makes it an invaluable energy resource for the nation.

"The state is uniquely positioned to intervene in such cases, in which our economic future is at stake," Parnell said. "Outer Continental Shelf development is critical to the state's economic future. The state will not sit idly by when responsible attempts to explore and develop these resources are challenged."

The decision by the Minerals Management Service to allow the exploration is being challenged by several environmental groups. The state, however, believes that the impacts of oil drilling on the Arctic ecosystem and subsistence activities were adequately considered by the federal agency in allowing the exploration.

As part of its exploration plan, Shell has made a commitment to extensive mitigation measures to avoid interference with subsistence activities and to protect whales and the Arctic environment.

This is not the first case the state has intervened in over the past year when economic development was at stake. It has also intervened in litigation involving the Outer Continental Shelf and the Kensington Mine.

The state also filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit that challenges the federal national Marine Fisheries Service's decision to not list the ribbon seal as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

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