FAIRBANKS (AP) -- More than 230 individuals and groups from nearly 40 states have contributed opinions to the proposal to renew leases for the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.
Comments expressed environmental concerns, as well as both pro and con opinions of the socioeconomic effects the pipeline has brought to Alaska since pipeline construction in 1977.
Public comments were gathered over the past several months to help pinpoint what issues will be addressed in an environmental impact document being prepared for the lease renewal.
''We were looking for help from the public to put out the document,'' said Rhea DoBosh of the state-federal Joint Pipeline Office. ''This isn't a voting type of process at all. What (we) wanted was substantive comments.''
Both the state and federal governments are considering renewal of 30-year leases for the land that the pipeline crosses. The leases will expire in 2004.
The leases are widely expected to be renewed, but the pipeline will come under close scrutiny during the renewal process and new restrictions could be placed on its operation.
A hundred comments came from Alaska. The next highest number, 19, came from California.
Many focused on the pipeline's age, according to a summary report.
''Commentators recommended that the effects of metal fatigue, corrosion, changes in pipeline design and construction criteria, and climate change be considered in evaluating future TAPS operations,'' the report noted.
People questioned the ability of the pipeline to safely operate for an additional 30 years, the report said.
Curtis Thomas, spokesman for Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., said the pipeline is capable of operating far into the future.
''We are confident that it can operate for another 30 years, and well past that,'' Thomas said Wednesday. ''We believe that with constant maintenance and constant upgrades it will be viable and we can keep the integrity of the pipeline intact for years to come.''
Some who commented wanted more frequent lease renewal than every 30 years. Suggestions ranged from once each decade to an annual renewal requirement.
People were divided on whether more regulations or a citizen's oversight group is needed.
Comments also focused on pipeline security.
''Additional surveillance of TAPS was recommended by commenters,'' according to the report. ''Some advocated restricting access on the Dalton Highway to improve security.''
Commitments to Native employment need to be honored and improved, some said. Others emphasized the need to look at the pipeline infrastructure's effect on subsistence hunting, with the Dalton Highway allowing easier entry to some hunting areas.
The comments will be considered during preparation of a draft Environmental Impact Statement to be sent out for public comment in July.
A final Environmental Impact Statement is due late next year and a decision on renewal of the leases could be made 30 days after that.
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