Testimony: Stan Stephens,  “DEIS Testimony,” Anchorage, Alaska, Aug. 5, 2002

 

This is my fourth testimony, having testified in Cordova, Valdez and Glennallen.

 

I’ve always started by listing certain recommendations.  These recommendations are listed in Richard Fineberg’s June 2002 status report on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System – “The Emperor’s New Hose”. 

 

Also I have always asked for more time to review the 1700 page document. 

 

I wasn’t surprised at BLM director, Kathleen Clarke, not extending the comment period on the DEIS – we expected this.  BLM is missing a real opportunity to work with the public in bringing a system up to modern day technology.  We were hoping we would be able to work with BLM.  We couldn’t comment ahead of the release of the report without any knowledge of its content.  We now feel the reviewing process with the public was a necessary evil BLM was obliged to do, serving no purpose other than to protect big oil.

 

Interior calls this a public disclosure process.  I call it deception, a pretense to deceive BLM’s real motive, which is to limit public input.  On May 2nd, JPO said that the DEIS would be out July 2nd and that the comment period would run from July to September.  Why the change of heart?

 

Why now has the comment period been cut in half?  Is it because the Norton Interior Department is showing its sympathy to Big Oil and choosing an adversarial approach in its dealings with the general public?  That is probably why the hearings are in the middle of the summer when most concerned citizens are busy making their living by fishing or tourism. 

This may be difficult for bureaucrats to understand, but making a year’s living in a few short months is reality for many Alaskans. 

 

I am surprised that an Interior director who is supposed to understand land issues would make a statement like: “An extension of the comment period is unnecessary for a right-of-way renewal situation where the existing system has been in place and fully operational for 25 years.”

 

Well let me tell you why it is necessary!!!

 

There are things the public has a right to know and not operate on blind faith with an Alyeska RCM program.

 

We know Alaska is warming up.  More than half of the pipeline crosses permafrost areas. We know more than 25,000 vertical support members (of the 78,000 that exist) are currently subject to movement.  We also know that 84% of all heat pipes on TAPS have some degree of blockage, potentially diminishing the load bearing capacity of VSMs.  Is there a detailed action plan to correct each of these VSMs?

 

We know there are problems with above ground sections of pipe mounted on slipping anchors and sliding support shoes.  We have many questions and many concerns about many of these sections of pipe.  We would like to know what the smart pigs that check pipe curvature and corrosion are finding.  Are some of the pipe curvatures that are under our rivers getting worse or are they stabilized?   

 

We do know that the 420 miles above ground pipe has major insulation problems.  With the colder oil temperature, increased sludge and paraffin, and slower movement of oil through the line – how are these insulation issues being addressed? 

 

We do know that there are major corrosion problems from the North Slope to the terminal, and it is getting worse.  We do know that there is no leak detection system, which is required by law, on BP’s section of the North Slope.  We do know that there are major spills on the North Slope, and that they are not always reported.  We do know that there are many leaking pipeline valves on the North Slope facilities and the rest of the pipeline.

 

We do know that there are open pads on the North Slope which get encased in ice in the winter, and crews cannot get to the frozen shut down valves.  We do know that they cannot clean up an oil spill on the North Slope, on the tundra, on the ice or in the water.  We do know that of the 800 different rivers or tributaries, which the pipeline crosses, under or over the water, that we have no real oil response system in place for a spill along the corridor.

 

We suspect warming climate trends are affecting pipeline foundations and bridge structures and need to be brought up to today’s BAT so they can handle a major earthquake.  We do know the leak detection system on the pipeline cannot measure a loss below 4,000 barrels a day. 

 

We do know that there is not an inventory of pipeline clamps placed in different spots up and down the pipeline to help shorten the time lag if a leak should occur.

 

We do know that the major pipeline communication system, the microwave system, doesn’t function properly and that the newly installed fiber-optic system has major problems.  We do know they have cut back on major inspection flights on an aging pipeline and when they do fly, they have missed major problems.

 

We do know that Port Valdez has suffered badly from discharges into its water the last 25 years.  What will the impact on marine resources be the next 30 years.

 

We do know that the ballast water treatment plant is not working right.

 

We do know that the terminal is emitting 5 times more hazardous air pollutants into the Valdez basin than the law allows. 

 

We do know that we have hydrocarbons from the BWT outside the mixing zone. 

 

We do know our C-plans for oil spill response on rivers is totally inadequate.

 

We do know that we haven’t figured out how to handle non-indigenous species in the segregated ballast.

 

We do know that Best Available Technology has changed in the last 30 years.  How should we and when should we apply it for the next 30 years?

 

We do know that oil is more toxic than originally thought.  How does this affect Port Valdez and BWT?

 

We do know that photosynthesis increases toxicity by about 10 times.

 

We do know that Alyeska is drastically cutting their budget and reducing personnel.

 

I can go on and on, but I only have 10 minutes.

 

Do I understand Kathleen Clarke correctly, when she says the extension of the comment period is unnecessary because Alyeska has been in operation for 25 years?

 

This is far more critical than a new construction project.   Alaska has warmed up a lot during the last 25 years, causing melting of permafrost which in turn has caused slope stability changes affecting the pipeline from Pump Station 1 to the Valdez terminal.

 

There is no reason we cannot have a safe and dependable oil delivery system.  To attain that, far more money needs to be put into maintenance, not defer the work.  Today the owner companies, led by BP, are slashing budget and ignoring safety to increase profits.

 

We, as human beings, sometimes lose sight as to what is really important.  We are caretakers of a planet that as far as we know today is the only one like it anywhere else in the solar system. We are badly abusing the privilege of living here, for short-term personal gain and outright greed. 

 

We must all work together, making the responsible protection of the earth, air, land and water our first priority.  We must be sure that when we use resources, we use them for the benefit of mankind.  We must prevent damage to the lands we have been so privileged to be part of, during our short lives.

 

This can only be done by spending money, not cutting budget, and by doing all of the work in a responsible manner.

 

BLM should be working for the Greater Power and the average human being – not Big Oil.

 

We need to tell Big Oil if they want to operate in Alaska, they need to do it right.

 

This DEIS does not do this. 

 

Let the agencies and the public have time to collaborate for the good of the industry and the State. 

 

The pipeline is old – it is tired – it is underfunded! 

          ________

 

(Condensed oral remarks and BLM responses included in BLM Final Environmental Impact Statement, Vol. 6, Part 3, No. 182.)