Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, March 7, 2017

Contact: Miyoko Sakashita, (510) 844-7108, miyoko@biologicaldiversity.org

Trump Administration Urged to Shut Down Leaking Pipeline in Alaska's Cook Inlet

ANCHORAGE, Alaska— Seven conservation groups today demanded that the Trump administration immediately shut down an underwater pipeline suffering an uncontrolled natural gas leak in Alaska’s Cook Inlet. An estimated 210,000 to 310,000 cubic feet of gas a day has been leaking from the broken offshore pipeline for more than two months. Yet federal regulators have given the operator until May to repair the leak.

Today’s letter to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration notes that the leak — which began in December but was not discovered until Feb. 7 — constitutes an imminent safety and environmental hazard. The leak threatens critically endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales and other wildlife by creating a low-oxygen dead zone, according to the letter from the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Defenders of Wildlife, Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL), Greenpeace and the Eyak Preservation Council.

“This dangerous leak could stop immediately if regulators did their job and shut down this rickety old pipeline,” said Miyoko Sakashita, the Center’s oceans program director. “We’re disgusted with the Trump administration’s lack of concern about this ongoing disaster. Every day the leak continues, this pipeline spews more pollution into Cook Inlet and threatens endangered belugas and other wildlife.”

Hilcorp Alaska, the operator of the 52-year-old pipeline, said it won’t repair the leak until the sea ice clears. On Friday, pipeline regulators issued a notice to Hilcorp proposing that it repair the pipeline by May 1, 2017. That schedule could allow the pipeline to dump another 16 million cubic feet of gas into the environment.

This is the third time this pipeline has sprung a leak in recent years, and the two other leaks were reported in 2014. The pipeline was built in 1965, and there are serious questions about the pipeline’s integrity given its age and Cook Inlet’s strong tides and cold waters. Today’s letter urges federal regulators to issue an emergency order to shut down the pipeline, inspect all of Hilcorp’s Middle Ground Shoal pipelines and monitor the leak’s environmental impacts.

State and federal regulators have repeatedly warned and fined Hilcorp for its “disregard for regulatory compliance.” Meanwhile, Hilcorp has applied for federal approval to build the Liberty project, an offshore oil development with a nine-acre artificial island and five-mile pipeline in the Beaufort Sea.

“If Hilcorp can’t even stop a gas leak under the ice in Cook Inlet, then it has no business drilling its Liberty Project in the Arctic, where sea conditions are even more treacherous,” said Sakashita. “Offshore oil and gas drilling is inherently dangerous and pollutes our ocean and atmosphere.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.2 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

www.biologicaldiversity.org

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