Commentary: Standoff over Point Thomson ends well

This editorial appeared in The Anchorage Daily News.

In the long-running fight with Exxon over the long-dormant Point Thomson oil and gas field, the state's hard line has finally paid off. The state's threat to take back the leases finally prodded Exxon into beginning development of the huge field after sitting on it for 25 years.

With that new commitment in hand, natural resources commissioner Tom Irwin decided Tuesday that Exxon can keep two of the disputed 31 Point Thomson leases. That decision lets Exxon move ahead with its drilling work this winter. If Exxon abandons its drilling work, or fails to bring the field into production, the leases will automatically revert to the state.

Exxon took a huge gamble by lining up a drilling rig for Point Thomson this winter, and barging equipment to the area, even though it no longer held clear title to any leases there.

That gutsy move resulted in an epic showdown, which the state's decision Tuesday brings to a constructive end. By having a drilling rig poised to go into Point Thomson, Exxon generated some public pressure for the state to give in.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Anchorage Daily News.