DEC: BP and Phillips keeping environmental promises on North Slope

Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. and Phillips Petroleum Co. are doing a good job of keeping environmental promises made about their North Slope operations, the Department of Environmental Conservation said Wednesday.

''Both BP and Phillips are off to a very good start,'' DEC Commissioner Michele Brown said, referring to the ''Charter for Development of the Alaskan North Slope,'' a $17 million agreement reached in late 1999 before Phillips bought Atlantic Richfield Co.'s Alaska assets.

Phillips completed the $6.5 billion deal last August and is fulfilling ARCO's obligations under the charter, Brown said.

Those obligations include:

--Investing $200,000 a year for 10 years to improve spill response preparedness.

--Funding up to $500,000 a year for state oversight of a corrosion monitoring program. BP and Phillips will hold sessions with DEC twice a year to discuss aging pipelines. The first session is set for April 30.

--Accelerating the replacement of crude oil tankers with a fleet of double-hulled tankers by 2007. The first double-hulled Phillips tanker will begin service this year.

--Spending $10 million to clean up 14 contaminated sites on the North Slope by 2007. The sites, whose previous owners either are unknown or unwilling to clean them up, have been inspected. Contracts to begin cleanup this year are in place.

--Cleaning up more than 40 contaminated sites for which BP and Phillips are responsible by 2007. The most seriously contaminated sites will be cleaned up by 2005.

''Over the last year we have worked really hard,'' said Ross Klie, BP's business unit leader for health, safety and environment.

BP and Phillips also have agreed to accelerate the cleanup of dozens of reserve pits where drill cuttings were once discarded. The material found in the pits will be ground up and mixed with water to form a slurry that is injected into the earth. The pits must be closed by 2007.

Jenna App, an attorney with the environmental law firm Trustees for Alaska, said it was good the companies were fulfilling their charter obligations but concerns remain high.

''The fact that there are so many contaminated sites ... that points out to me that there are real environmental costs that come with oil and gas production,'' she said.

Of particular concern is the ability of the oil companies to deal with spills in broken ice, App said, citing BP's Northstar project six miles offshore in the Beaufort Sea. Construction is to be completed this summer with production to begin in November.

A state report completed last year concluded BP would not be able to respond to a spill in slushy water.

''We know our challenge is cleaning up in broken ice conditions,'' Brown said when asked about Northstar.

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