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Press Release

State Seeks to Intervene in NPR-A Lawsuit

April 3, 2006

(Anchorage) - Attorney General David Márquez announced today that the state moved to intervene in the latest federal lawsuit filed by conservation and environmental groups attempting to shut down oil and gas development in the National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska.

Seven environmental organizations1 have sued the U.S. Department of the Interior, in the U.S. District Court in Alaska, challenging an oil and gas development plan for the Northeast planning area of the NPR-A alleging violations of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Endangered Species Act and the National Petroleum Reserve Production Act.

"At the request of the Governor, the Department of Law reviewed the litigation and determined that the state has a vital interest in intervening to protect Alaska interests in the NPR-A, including important rights to royalties," said Márquez.

Efforts to open up the Northeast planning area are the subject of two federal lawsuits. In the first lawsuit, Wilderness Society, et. al. v. Babbitt, seven environmental groups challenged an environmental impact statement (EIS), issued by the Department of the Interior (DOI) that authorized opening up to 87-percent of the 4.6 million acre planning area to oil and gas leasing and led to three lease sales. The state intervened in the lawsuit and the case is pending in the D.C. District Court.

In 2003, the DOI's Bureau of Land Management (BLM), amended the Northeast plan. Three plan options were initially recommended, but a fourth was ultimately adopted that incorporated concerns voiced in the public comment period. The newest plan provides greater flexibility in project management within the plan and calls for consultation with local residents as well as coordinated scientific studies to protect wildlife habitat and subsistence areas.

Despite these changes to the northeast plan, this latest lawsuit was filed. The state is seeking to intervene in this lawsuit because the outcome of this case will have a direct and significant effect on the state, Alaskans and Alaska's natural resources. ConocoPhillips and Anadarko are also seeking to intervene in this lawsuit.

In January 2004 the DOI adopted an EIS for the Northwest Planning area of the NPR-A. Eight environmental groups filed a lawsuit alleging violations of the NEPA, the Endangered Species Act and the NPRPA. The state, along with ConocoPhillips, Anadarko and the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, intervened in this litigation. The environmental groups lost on all claims in federal district court. An appeal by these groups was filed and briefed and is currently pending in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The state earns 89-percent of its unrestricted General Fund revenue from oil production. "Today the Administration and the Alaska Legislature are hard at work crafting a new oil production tax that will balance increasing state revenues while providing incentives for oil producers to replace our diminishing oil production," said Márquez. "Alaska's safe and responsible development of its natural resources must not continue to be held hostage to the litigious agenda of outside interests."

1 National Audubon Society, et. al. v. Gale Norton, Secretary of the Interior, et. al. Plaintiffs include: the National Audubon Society, Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Development Council, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society.

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