Norton renews federal right of way for TAPS

Posted: Thursday, January 09, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) -- Interior Secretary Gale Norton renewed a right-of-way grant to the trans-Alaska oil pipeline that will allow it to operate for 30 years.

The agreement granting right of way on federal lands becomes effective Jan. 23, 2004, when the previous agreement expires.

Norton signed the necessary permit in Washington, D.C., during a ceremony that was attended by Gov. Frank Murkowski. Alaska had approved a similar right-of-way agreement on state lands on Nov. 26.

The federal grant came after more than 18 months of analyzing the economic, social and environmental impacts of the oil pipeline that spans 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez.

The pipeline transports 17 percent of the nation's domestic oil production and has pumped more than 14 billion barrels of oil since it was completed in 1977. It is considered a major component in the national energy plan backed by President Bush.

''Renewing the pipeline will go a long way toward ensuring energy and economic security for our nation for the next three decades,'' Norton said in a press statement.

The six companies that own the trans-Alaska Pipeline System applied for state and federal right of ways in May 2001.

An environmental impact statement by the Bureau of Land Management released earlier recommended approval and made no new demands on the pipeline operators.

The renewals are crucial for the continued flow of crude oil from North Slope oil fields to the tanker port at Valdez.

Both the state and federal review dismissed requests by the public to create a citizen review panel to make sure pipeline operators are spending enough money on maintenance.

Murkowski said oversight provided by the Joint Pipeline Office, which is made up of representatives from 12 state and federal agencies, works adequately and further public oversight was not needed.

''I believe those concerns have been more than adequately addressed, the public process works, and we will continue to be vigilant in our oversight of the operation and management of the pipeline,'' he said in a press statement.

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