Regulators plan overall review of Cook Inlet pipelines

Posted: Wednesday, September 05, 2001

KENAI (AP) -- With several recent spills from aging or abandoned pipelines in and around Cook Inlet, state regulators say they're planning a comprehensive look at the web of pipes on the inlet floor.

The Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council called last month for the Department of Environmental Conservation to review inlet pipelines.

That came after an earlier report from the watchdog group saying there was regulatory confusion because no single agency coordinates design, construction, maintenance, operation and spill response plans for Cook Inlet lines. It noted that Cook Inlet pipelines are nearing the end of their projected life spans.

DEC agrees a major review is needed and has been working toward one for about a year, according to Larry Dietrick of the Division of Spill Prevention and Response at DEC.

''Conceptually, industry, CIRCAC and everybody else are on notice that we want to go down this path,'' Dietrick said. ''It just takes a lot of work to get the details straightened out.

''We do a review of these pipelines as part of our prevention and contingency plans review anyway. It's just when you approach them on a regional basis rather than an individual basis, it takes on a whole new dimension,'' Dietrick said.

DEC needs an agreement among all the parties involved, including the industry, CIRCAC and regulatory agencies, on how to carry out the review, he said.

''We're working with other agencies that have (pipeline assessment) requirements and finding out what new requirements will be coming in the future,'' Dietrick said. ''We need to integrate our assessment with theirs and cover the pieces that won't be performed under their requirements.''

And, he said, ''the industry has already done a fair amount. One of the concerns here is that we not duplicate what they've done and waste money.''

DEC asked the Legislature for about $150,000 in the upcoming fiscal year for work on the Cook Inlet review, but the legislators didn't appropriate the money. So DEC is working on it when time is available, according to Dietrick.

The Cook Inlet review is one part of the DEC's larger review of the Alyeska and North Slope pipelines.

''It's no small thing to take on the entire infrastructure of Cook Inlet,'' Dietrick said. ''But we'll get there. The industry's goal is to not spill oil, and that's the same goal as everybody else on the peninsula. People want to make sure the pipeline infrastructure is safe for another 20 years.''

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