For Immediate Release, April 6, 2017
Contact: Kristen Monsell, (510) 844-7137, firstname.lastname@example.org
After Hilcorp Gas Leak, Oil Spill, Legal Petition Calls for Inspections of Cook Inlet's Aging Offshore Pipelines
ANCHORAGE, Alaska— Seeking to avert another devastating offshore oil spill or gas leak, the Center for Biological Diversity today formally petitioned the Trump administration and Alaska regulators to inspect all offshore pipelines in Cook Inlet for corrosion and other damage.
Most of the offshore pipelines in Cook Inlet were built in the 1960s, making them among some of the oldest in the country. Federal data show a significantly increased risk of failure as pipelines approach 30 years old; the data also indicate that offshore pipelines are more vulnerable to damage than those onshore. Cook Inlet pipelines are at further risk because of sea ice and severe tides, among other factors.
“It’s scary to think about how decayed some of the offshore pipelines littering Cook Inlet may be,” said Kristen Monsell, a Center attorney. “These old, vulnerable pipelines pose a toxic threat to the people and wildlife of Cook Inlet.”
The risks of Cook Inlet’s pipelines were illustrated by two unrelated incidents from pipelines owned by Hilcorp, Alaska, both of which were built in the 1960s. Both incidents occurred in critical habitat for highly imperiled Cook Inlet beluga whales, which now number just 340 individuals.
The first, a natural gas leak from a pipeline that fuels an offshore oil platform, was discovered on Feb. 7 but is believed to have been leaking since December. The second was a crude oil spill discovered on April 1 from a separate pipeline that connected two offshore rigs. The oil spill was reportedly stopped, but the gas leak is ongoing, currently leaking up to an estimated 115,000 cubic feet of natural gas per day. The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has repeatedly cited Hilcorp for violating safety regulations in its oil and gas operations in the state.
“To truly protect our coasts, we need to stop offshore drilling and rapidly transition to cleaner energy sources,” Monsell said. “But in the meantime, the government must discover and order the fix of faulty pipelines before another spill occurs — not after.”
The legal petition requests that the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (within the U.S. Department of Transportation) and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation inspect offshore oil and gas pipelines in the Inlet. Both agencies have jurisdiction over offshore pipelines and a legal obligation to protect public safety and the environment from the dangers inherent in oil and gas development and transportation.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.2 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.