Tesoro drill planned Wednesday

Posted: Tuesday, March 07, 2000

Tesoro Alaska Petroleum Co. will include some new players when it holds a table-top oil spill response drill Wednesday.

In addition to regular participants, such as Cook Inlet Spill Prevention and Response Inc., the Nikiski Fire Department and the Alaska Department of Environ-mental Conservation, Tesoro and Kenai Pipe Line Co. plan to include representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and soldiers from the Alaska National Guard.

Tesoro usually holds spill drills on Cook Inlet, where the U.S. Coast Guard has jurisdiction, said John Kwietniak, the refinery's supervisor of contingency plans and emergency response, so the EPA has not participated.

Wednesday's drill simulates a worst-case spill at Kenai Pipe Line Co., the Tesoro subsidiary that owns the crude oil dock and terminal across the Kenai Spur Highway from the refinery.

The simulated spill will be on land but still close enough to the water to fall under Coast Guard jurisdiction, Kwietniak said. Tesoro has obtained the Coast Guard's permission to work with EPA to gain experience with the other agency and its people.

Another new player is the Alaska National Guard, which was looking for ways to deploy resources as part of the statewide Northern Edge military exercise. Wednesday morning, the Guard will use four Blackhawk helicopters to move 80 to 90 troops to Nikiski as part of Tesoro's drill.

"Their primary goal is to secure the perimeter for Tesoro and Kenai Pipe Line Co.," said Kerre Martineau, public information officer for the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. "It's an infantry unit. They'll be scavenging through the trees in the area, all on Tesoro land."

The soldiers will search for several compatriots posing as the vandals or saboteurs who caused the simulated spill, Martineau said.

"For the Guard, it's an excellent training mission. This is what they train for," she said. "It's an infantry unit. This is what they do best -- crawl through the woods and track what they need to find."

Meanwhile, about 75 managers from Tesoro, CISPRI, EPA, ADEC, Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council and the Nikiski Fire Department will conduct a table-top exercise in spill management.

"It's certainly preparedness for us," Kwietniak said. "We take these exercises very seriously."

Working with new agencies expands Tesoro's preparedness, he said.

"It's really important to know all the players and be able to interface with them," he said.

In a real disaster, the National Guard could provide communications, transportation, security and other services.

The public should not be alarmed at the sight of helicopters, fire trucks and soldiers in the woods, beginning about 8 a.m. Wednesday. It is only a drill, the company said, and there should be no restrictions on use of the Kenai Spur Highway.

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