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News >  Business

Antitrust suit criticizes oil companies

Associated Press

JUNEAU, Alaska – An antitrust lawsuit filed against Exxon Mobil Corp. and BP PLC claims the two oil giants are conspiring to crush competition and restrict the nation’s supply of natural gas.

The suit was filed Monday by the Alaska Gasline Port Authority, a coalition of local government officials that seeks to build an 800-mile natural-gas pipeline from Alaska’s North Slope to the port of Valdez, where up to 4.5 billion cubic feet of gas per day would then be liquefied and shipped in refrigerated tankers to West Coast markets.

But one hurdle to the authority’s proposal is that the companies, which control the largest natural gas fields on the North Slope, refuse to supply the fuel needed to make it work.

Along with Gov. Frank Murkowski, ExxonMobil and BP favor a $20 billion pipeline that would run through Canada and bring Alaskan natural gas to the Midwest.

The port authority claims BP and Exxon Mobil’s refusal to sell its natural gas is keeping the price artificially high nationwide.

The January futures contract for natural gas rose 3.7 cents Tuesday to settle at $14.08 per 1,000 cubic feet on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Port authority officials say they have been trying to negotiate a purchase of the natural gas from the North Slope producers for years, but that BP and ExxonMobil have refused to discuss it.

“The only obstacle blocking this pipeline system is (Exxon Mobil and BP’s) concerted conduct to prevent the commitment of North Slope gas to such a pipeline,” the port authority’s lawsuit reads.

BP spokesman Daren Beaudo said the company has studied the port authority’s proposal and concluded that it is less competitive than the pipeline and other LNG projects BP could pursue around the globe.

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