Coalition wants new studies of pipeline impact

Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A coalition of environmental, Native and public interest groups wants new studies done on the environmental impact of the trans-Alaska pipeline.

The coalition of 14 groups also wants a record of pipeline operations.

The demand came Tuesday on the final day that federal and state officials were accepting public comments as they consider whether the 800-mile pipeline should be allowed to continue carrying North Slope crude.

The draft federal and state reports both recommend renewing the right of way for another 30 years, but a final decision isn't due until the end of the year.

Bob Randall, a staff attorney with the Anchorage environmental law firm Trustees for Alaska, argued Tuesday on behalf of the coalition. He said the environmental impact statement violates federal environmental law in part by failing to consider enough alternatives for the pipeline's future.

The document, for instance, fails to offer alternatives to require a new citizen review board to monitor the pipeline, or to require oil companies that own the line to escrow money for dismantling the pipe once the oil dries up, he said.

And he said the state's pipeline report violates state law because it recommends giving a new lease to the pipeline despite some outstanding operational and safety violations.

Coalition members include the Alaska Center for the Environment, the Sierra Club, the Alaska Public Interest Research Group and the Eyak Preservation Council.

Six oil companies own the pipeline: BP, Phillips, Exxon Mobil, Williams, Amerada Hess and Unocal. The line already has operated for 25 years and currently carries 1 million barrels of oil a day to a tanker port at Valdez.

The pipeline's right of way across federal and state lands expires in early 2004 and the oil companies have applied to renew it for another 30 years.

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