ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Four bullet strikes have been found on the trans-Alaska oil pipeline near the portion damaged in a shooting that caused more than 285,000 gallons of oil to gush out on the tundra earlier this month.
The bullets penetrated the pipeline's insulation jacket but did not cause leaks, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. officials said Friday.
Alaska State Troopers alerted Alyeska on Thursday evening about the discovery near Mile 400 of the 800-mile line. Company spokesman Tim Woolston said the bullet strikes were about a mile north of the section punctured by a bullet Oct. 4.
It's unknown if the strikes are related to the Oct. 4 shooting, Woolston said. Over the years, people have shot at the pipeline more than 50 times but have never caused enough damage to produce a spill.
Repairs were planned for Friday afternoon. The marks are close enough to be repaired with two sleeves, Woolston said. The pipeline will continue operating through the work.
Daniel Carson Lewis, 37, is accused of the shooting Oct. 4 north of Fairbanks near Livengood.
A federal grand jury Thursday indicted Lewis on a charge of unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon. If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Lewis already has pleaded innocent to state felony charges of first-degree criminal mischief, third-degree assault and felony drunken driving.
Lewis' state trial is scheduled to begin the last week of December.
In addition to the three felony counts, Lewis also faces misdemeanor charges of oil pollution and fourth-degree misconduct involving weapons.
He faces a maximum of 22 years in prison for the state charges he could also be fined and ordered to pay restitution to the oil companies and the state.
Alaska State Troopers believe that Lewis, who has a long history of minor criminal offenses, fired at the pipeline just to see if he could pierce it. Troopers say he fired five shots with a .338-caliber rifle before succeeding on the sixth try.
The cleanup from the spill is expected to be lengthy and could cost millions of dollars. Workers have recovered more than half the oil.
This winter, Alyeska crews will dig up as much of the contaminated frozen soil and vegetation as possible.
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