Point Thomson Appreciation Luncheon
Thank you, Craig. I'm happy to be here today, to join you all in acknowledging the individuals, businesses, and organizations that have made 2009 truly a year to remember in the history of Point Thomson. May we have many, many more.
It goes without saying that I'm glad Point Thomson is finally feeling the drill bit. It's been a collaborative effort, and now we see opportunities for the private sector and our state to benefit from the necessary preparation and ongoing activity essential to developing oil and gas resources on Alaska's lands. That's what our constitution requires of public servants - and that's a charge that I take with the utmost honor and commitment. And I believe that things really can work they way they are supposed to, according to our constitution, when we abide by the letter and the spirit of this founding document - and you see the results of that, here today.
The State of Alaska is unique among the 50 states, in that we own our subsurface mineral resources. We have an awesome oil and gas land ownership responsibility. And we recognize the oil and gas industry as an engine of economic security and growth. That makes our relationship with the industry unique as well.
In those areas where our interests are aligned, the State has a responsibility to put into place prudent policies and take actions that advance our common interests. We are doing that. It is incumbent upon us to provide appropriate incentives, to make sure Alaskans are protected, to ensure our environmental policies protect our state while allowing responsible development. To provide access to our lands with the best prospects for resource recovery, and to open up more land, like the federal lands that are both on and offshore.
Sometimes, our interests seem "not-so" aligned, and public officials are obligated to take tough positions or assert our sovereign rights to protect the public interest - that can lead to aggressive negotiations.
Resolving differences and harmonizing our interests is the challenge. In the case of areas within Point Thomson, some of our differences are seeing resolution.
Development here is proof that our interests can be aligned, and that we can work together - there are many more examples, but you just don't see very many of those stories in the media. One area in which we are particularly well-aligned is the employment of Alaskans and Alaska businesses - which is why we're all here today, to thank you for all of the private sector's hard work and effort that has gone into this project to date.
To me, there's nothing better than when our efforts lead to jobs created by responsible development and collaborative partnership - there's no better result than Alaskans and Alaska businesses going to work! I know Alaskans join me in that appreciation.
I am pleased to see so many good, industrious Alaskans at work. In order to support the two-well drilling program on the east end of the Slope, Exxon has contracted primarily with Alaska companies to get the job done. That illustrates solid business sense - entrusting the work to those who know the land and climate so well - but it also gives the Alaskan public confidence in the work being done.
Earlier this spring, you moved a rig to one of the two leases in the unit area. One well was spudded, with its completion planned for later this year. There's a commitment to begin drilling a second well this summer. This is a great start.
The road to get to this point hasn't been easy. It's taken years, and just looking at the time of day that the first well was spudded - 2:30 am - it sounds more like childbirth than drilling a well!
And there have been more than a few labor pains in the process to get to where we are today. Following a grueling administrative and legal hearing process, Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Irwin authorized the drilling operation on January 27, allowing mobilization of the drilling rig. He provided guidance to regulatory officers on permitting to allow drilling to begin as quickly as possible when issues were resolved. Here again, working together to find solutions that mutually serve our interests, results in great things happening for Alaska.
I'm happy to say that the good news continues here. Industry has committed to produce oil from these two leases by 2014, and we're all in the beginning phases of designing and permitting the infrastructure required to bring oil from these leases to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and on to hungry, needy markets. This continuing effort will put many more Alaskans to work for years to come!
Our state has many highly-skilled companies and workers who can support the development of our valuable oil and gas resources, and we applaud the efforts of industry players who put them to work.
So, this is good. It's REALLY good. It's been tough, but look where we are today - we're drilling! And, we're protecting the environment through effective permitting and monitoring; ensuring safe operations for those at the drill site. And, bottom line - we're making sure that our oil and gas resources are consistently developed with the mandate of our constitution - "for the maximum benefit of the people of Alaska."
Once again, thanks to all of you who have made this public/private partnership possible, and I thank you for your good work on the Point Thomson project. God bless.