Lawmakers question governor’s unprecedented request to oil companies
The legislative session is over, but Sen. Cathy Giessel called a Senate Resources Committee hearing Tuesday afternoon to address an issue she says should have members of the public concerned: Gov. Bill Walker is making an unprecedented ask of Prudhoe Bay oil producers.
Walker wants BP, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil to explain how they plan to market the gas they produce, along with oil, before he’ll approve their plans of development (POD) to continue producing oil this fall.
But Giessel said there are legal questions surrounding the governor’s request. If the companies were ready to market the gas, Giessel said, they wouldn’t want to share their marketing strategy with each other.
“The companies are contending, they are pushing back and saying, ‘You know, we are three different companies in the Prudhoe Bay unit, we’re separate and if we share our marketing plans we now will be entering into anti-trust and anti-competition law violations. We can’t do that,'” Giessel said.
The three companies are also the state’s partners on a natural gas pipeline project, known as AKLNG. Walker’s request for new information on gas marketing came after the producers began to show increasing hesitancy about moving forward with the project.
“Is there a link? Folks are wondering,” Giessel said.
If the governor won’t budge on the issue, Giessel and other lawmakers worry that, legally, the companies won’t be able to continue producing oil on the North Slope without an approved POD.
In a prepared statement, a spokesperson with BP, which operates the Prudhoe Bay unit, said, “The level of information provided is consistent with the previous PODs that [the Department of Natural Resources] has approved each year since 2000. This POD satisfies all of the Prudhoe Bay Unit Agreement’s and POD regulations’ requirements.”
Speaking at a luncheon with business members Monday, Walker briefly addressed concerns.
“A lot of discussion about the Plan of Development on the North Slope,” he said. “I just want to say in front of the Chamber of Commerce, I have no intention of doing anything that’s going to negatively impact what happens on the North Slope. It’s really about how do we get the most benefit out of the resources on the North Slope.”
Walker said he has every reason to believe that the information he’s asked for is going to be provided over the next month or so.
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