ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The state on Tuesday granted the trans-Alaska oil pipeline another 30-year lease to continue operating across 344 miles of state land.
Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Pat Pourchot, with Gov. Tony Knowles attesting, signed the lease renewal for the 800-mile pipeline. The six companies that own the trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) applied for 30-year state and federal rights of way in May 2001.
Regulators succeeded in their goal of renewing the pipeline's right of way well in advance of state and federal expiration dates in early 2004.
The state lease makes no new demands on pipeline operators.
By early next year, the U.S. government is expected to also authorize 30 more years of pipeline operations over 376 miles of federal lands.
The owner companies include Conoco Phillips, BP, Exxon Mobil, Unocal, Amerada Hess and Williams. Executives for all those companies had signed the state lease renewal as of Monday.
The renewals are crucial for the continued flow of crude oil from North Slope oil fields to the tanker port at Valdez.
Regulators specializing in everything from engineering to wildlife and the environment have spent at least two years studying whether the pipeline and the six oil companies that own it deserved a right of way rine represents about 17 percent of the United States' crude oil production.
People testifying in a series of public hearings this summer requested a range of new stipulations for continued operation of the line, including tougher environmental requirements and even a new citizen review council to scrutinize pipeline operations.
Pourchot and other people rejected that idea, saying the line has plenty of regulators watching over it.
Richard Fineberg, a Fairbanks economist and pipeline watchdog, said Monday that the lease renewal is flawed. One major role of a citizen review panel would be to insist that the pipeline owners spend adequately on maintenance and operations.
''It was a sham review,'' he said. ''Our questions were never dealt with.''
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