Air Pollution:

Status of Dispute Over Alaska Oil Pipeline Air Quality Controls

RCED-89-37: Published: Dec 9, 1988. Publicly Released: Jan 9, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO investigated whether federal or state laws required an Alaskan pipeline services company to file for a new air quality control permit, since the firm had: (1) increased the amount of natural gas liquids in its pipeline; and (2) made operational equipment changes to its terminal's waste gas incinerators.

GAO found that: (1) the firm's original air quality control permit was issued in 1974, before current federal air quality regulations were enacted; (2) the current regulations required the firm's terminal to obtain a Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) program permit only if the firm made major equipment modifications; (3) the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Alaska's Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) believed that the firm's increase in natural gas liquids and volatile organic compounds and the equipment changes required it to obtain a PSD permit; (4) the firm believed that the events did not trigger the need for a PSD permit; (5) neither EPA nor ADEC have conducted detailed inspections of the terminal, citing a lack of staff and the nonspecific nature of the operating permit; (6) EPA, ADEC, and the firm have attempted to resolve the permit issue since late 1987, with EPA and ADEC proposing that the firm apply for a new permit and the firm proposing that it review and rewrite its existing permit; and (7) both proposals showed a willingness of all parties to work toward negotiating a settlement.

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