SEATTLE (AP) -- A fuel pipeline that ruptured, causing a fatal firestorm in Bellingham last year, may be operated from a control center in Oklahoma, newly chosen managers say.
Several changes are being made by BP Amoco, which was chosen last week to succeed Equilon Enterprises LLC to run the Olympic Pipe Line Co. system that links refineries near Bellingham and Anacortes with Seattle and Portland, Ore.
Olympic's 400-mile pipeline system is the principal source of gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel in Western Washington.
The biggest change would be closing the existing control room in Renton in favor of operation via satellite links from Tulsa, Okla., where BP Amoco maintains a control center for operation of most of its 15,000 miles of pipeline in 30 states.
A decision could come within six months, BP Amoco spokesman Brian Dinges said.
''Based on our evaluation of the Renton control center, if we thought there were improvements that could be realized from moving it to Tulsa, we might consider that,'' Dinges said, ''but the safety issue is obviously very large and we do not want to jeopardize the safe operation of Olympic Pipe Line, so that will be the priority here. We're committed to operating it safely.''
Joe Stohr, head of Washington state's spill response agency, said most of the other changes sounded good but added, ''I think it's safe to say that the farther the controls and the people are from the state in general, the greater our concerns are.''
BP Amoco may also reassign workers who were at the controls at the time of the rupture, Dinges said.
Meanwhile, two Olympic employees broke a year-long silence and testified before a federal grand jury investigating the rupture and resulting firestorm in which three people died in Bellingham on June 10, 1999, three sources familiar with the criminal investigation told The Seattle Times.
The testimony, given under a promise of immunity from prosecution, provided investigators with important information on decisions made in the computer control room, one source said.
Last Friday, Olympic's board of directors chose BP Amoco to run the 400-mile pipeline that carries nearly all the fuel used in Western Washington.
The changeover takes effect July 1, but BP Amoco has already brought in a new general manager, safety manager and engineering manager and is seeking a replacement for Olympic president Fred Crognale.
The new Olympic managers will remain in Renton even if operations are shifted to the control center in Tulsa, Dinges said.
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