A meeting is scheduled for Tuesday to clarify a state superior court judge's order that an agreement between Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski and major oil companies active in the state be released to the public.

Alaska Sen. Hollis French (D-Anchorage) sued to obtain a copy of the contract between Murkowski and BP plc, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil Corp., which covers tax and royalty terms relating to 35 Tcf of natural gas reserves. Juneau Superior Court Judge Larry Weeks ruled in French's favor, and Murkowski and his co-defendants sought a status conference for clarification on the order and exactly what documents are to be released. That meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday, May 9, a Murkowski spokesperson told NGI.

Weeks' order to release the contract included the provision that the oil companies be given the opportunity to object to the release of any proprietary information. Murkowski has said he would release the document to the public on May 10, a day after Alaska's regular legislative session ends.

French claimed that he and other lawmakers needed to know the contents of the contract in order to properly consider a bill that would rewrite tax law applicable to the major producers (see Daily GPI, April 27). Murkowski intends to include provisions of the tax law in the gas contract with the producers, who would be the developers of 35 Tcf of gas reserves on Alaska's North Slope and backers of a long line pipeline to carry the gas to the lower 48..

French accused the governor of stalling the document's release until after the tax bill passes and the regular legislative session ends. The legislature had authorized the governor to negotiate the contract under the Stranded Gas Act and report the results back to the legislature for consideration. Murkowski has said he will reveal the contract on May 10 at a special legislative session designed to consider the contract.

"How long does it take to communicate with the three parties you've been in negotiations with for two years and say, 'If there's something in this contract that's proprietary or confidential, we need to get it out of there now?'" the Anchorage Daily News quoted French as saying Sunday.

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