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Hammond v. North Slope Borough

Citation: 12 ELR 20979
No. Nos. 5550 et al., 645 P.2d 750/17 ERC 1656/(Alaska, 05/07/1982)

The Supreme Court of Alaska upholds Alaska's determination under the Alaska Lands Act that the Beaufort Sea oil and gas lease sale was in the state's best interest, but remands the state's decision that the lease sale was consistent with the Alaska Coastal Management Plan (ACMP). Initially, the court affirms the lower court's decision to remand the case to the state for additional findings on the impact of the leasing on the subsistence and culture of the Inupiat Eskimos. Next, the court rules that the conclusion of the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources that the sale was in the state's best interest, despite the lack of complete information on environmental impacts and drilling technology, was reasonable. The Commissioner considered the cost of proceeding in the face of uncertainty and included substantial measures to mitigate any adverse effects.

However, because the court is unable to ascertain the basis for the Commissioner's consistency determination, it remands the case for reconsideration. The Commissioner must determine whether the lease sale meets the ACMP's specific environmental protections or, if there are conflicting uses and activities, whether (1) there is a significant public need for the sale, (2) any feasible alternatives exist, and (3) all feasible steps to maximize conformity with the ACMP's standards have been taken.

The court also rules that (1) the lease sale did not violate the Marine Mammal Protection Act or the Endangered Species Act, (2) the Commissioner's choice of bidding methods was procedurally and substantively valid, (3) the state violated the Alaska Public Meetings Act, but that such violation was insufficient to void the Commissioner's decision to allow the lease sale, and (4) the United States was not an indispensable party.

Counsel for Appellants
Michael Arruda, Ass't Attorney General
420 L St., Suite 100, Anchorage AK 99501
(907) 276-3550

Jeffrey B. Lowenfels
Birch, Horton, Bittner, Monroe, Prestinger & Anderson
1127 W. 7th Ave., Anchorage AK 99501
(907) 276-1550

Theodore E. Fleischer
Ely, Guess & Rudd
510 L St., Suite 700, Anchorage AK 99501
(907) 276-5121

Counsel for Appellees
Philip G. Sunderland
1526 18th St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 332-1882

Charles K. Cranston
Cranston, Walters & Dahl
310 K St., Suite 407, Anchorage AK 99501
(907) 276-1994

Before RABINOWITZ, C.J., and CONNOR, BURKE, MATTHEWS and COMPTON, JJ.