Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Sullivan v. Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands

ELR Citation: 43 ELR 20074
Nos. 6769, (Alaska, 03/29/2013)

The Alaska Supreme Court held that neither the Alaska Constitution nor the Alaska Land Act require the state's natural resources agency to issue a written best interest finding at each step of an oil and gas development project. The Act's best interest finding requirement is purely a creature of the legislature, and it is within the discretion of the legislature to modify the statute so long as the principles contained in article VIII of the Alaska Constitution are being met. Here, requiring only a single best interest finding, a procedure that was created by the legislature and not the constitution, does not contravene article VIII. In addition, subsequent phases of an oil and gas development project are not "disposals" under the Act. For an oil and gas development project, the lease is the only conveyance of property rights that the state agency approves. The 2001 amendments to the Act make clear that the legislature intended the best interest finding to apply only to the "disposal" phase, meaning the lease sale phase, of a project. The court, therefore, reversed a lower court ruling to the contrary. However, the court noted that state consideration of cumulative impacts is constitutionally required throughout all the phases of a project.