Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline Operations:

More Federal Monitoring Needed

EMD-81-11: Published: Jan 6, 1981. Publicly Released: Jan 6, 1981.

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To see how well the pipeline monitoring of both pipeline and environmental integrity is being carried out, GAO evaluated several technical and environmental stipulations imposed on the operating company as conditions for the pipeline's right-of-way across federal lands.

The operating company has deviated from various technical requirements designed to prevent or detect oil leaks, and corrective action has not always been taken. GAO also found that: (1) the company is not complying with the stipulation for a system that would detect pipeline settling and thus provide an early warning leak prevention system; (2) it has not run internal corrosion pitting surveys as frequently as required in the approved corrosion control plan; (3) the line volume balance leak detection method is not operating at the sensitivity specified in the approved design; (4) the effectiveness of the earthquake-monitoring system has not been thoroughly evaluated by the agency; and (5) the monitoring office of the agency is experiencing difficulty in staffing because of executive branch hiring limitations imposed to cut costs and the agency's deemphasis on the use of consultants. Since applicable costs are charged to the operating company, these hiring limitations are unnecessary. GAO and a consultant spot checked conditions along the length of the pipeline. The operating company has been responsive to various environmental problems which had been identified. However, in order to fully adjudge the company's compliance with the stipulations, long-term environmental impact research is necessary. The research which has been done has been uncoordinated and inadequate. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that other agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey, cannot charge the cost of pipeline-related environmental studies to the

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation should be dropped and followup continued through a broader recommendation that encompasses it in a recent GAO report (EMD-82-44).

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the authorized officer to establish a list of the priority research requirements necessary to evaluate the long-term environmental impact of the Alyeska Pipeline Service company's actions and conduct or arrange to have such studies conducted. Consideration should be given to the research projects previously mentioned in this report.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior


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