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Aggregating Energy Since 2006

BP Fouling up Alaska

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An editorial in the Star Tribune this morning takes a peak at regulation and monitoring of oil pipelines in Alaska. They come down very hard on BP and Alaska state agencies. The impression is of a federal and state monitoring and regulation program that is only interested in preventing catastrophes.

"The rest result in official write-ups and fines that become a cost of doing business in the Alaskan oilfields, and perhaps create the misimpression that these pipeline operations are tightly monitored and regulated. In fact, the federal government limits effective oversight to pipelines whose high pressure and/or urban locations would mean catastrophe in event of a serious leak. The low-pressure, mostly rural lines that move oil around in Alaska are subject to much more lenient scrutiny, in which federal inspectors partner with industry-friendlier state agencies"

Additionally, there is the distinct possibility that BP was not satisfied with leniency from regulators also withhelding information that might have given indications as to the severity of the problems in the pipeline.

"This, then, is the environment in which BP may have been within the rules to operate a sludged-up, corroded pipeline for as long as 14 years, and well beyond its designed lifespan, without an internal inspection by electronic "smart pigs" -- despite plenty of external evidence that corrosion was thinning its walls to the danger point. Indeed, investigators are now reviewing allegations that BP not only brushed aside warnings from its own employees and consultants on this risk, but gamed its regulatory reporting to minimize the situation."