Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Poll Analyses
Share on Facebook 5 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
General News    H2'ed 7/18/08

Reasons to Oppose Drilling in ANWR Found in Alaska's North Slope

By       (Page 2 of 3 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page. (View How Many People Read This)   No comments
Author 17
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Jason Leopold
Become a Fan
  (7 fans)
But it could take as long as 10 years before oil makes its way to the marketplace, according to a study by the Government Accountability Office.

But in arguing against drilling in the pristine wildlife refuge, opponents of the issue point to the routine oil spills at BP's Prudhoe Bay facilities and the company’s continued neglect of its vast network of pipelines in the region as a primary reason to set aside debate on the issue.

The Prudhoe Bay field, the country’s largest, accounts for 8 percent - or 400,000 barrels per day - of the country's domestic crude supply. Production at Prudhoe Bay began in 1977, and during its peak in the 1980s the field produced more than 1 million barrels of oil per day. BP operates Prudhoe Bay and shares the costs with owners Conoco Phillips, Exxon Mobil and Chevron. BP’s decades long presence in the North Slope would put the company in the lead position to drill in ANWR if the refuge were opened to exploration, Alaskan lawmakers have said.

US Attorney Nelson Cohen agreed that BP’s Alaska operations were shoddily run, stating in federal court in November that for more than eight years BP failed to run a cleaning device through its pipelines and allowed corrosion to build up.

In October, a month before BP entered a guilty plea, another oil spill emanated from the Prudhoe Bay pipeline and covered nearly five acres of frozen tundra. The company closed down 245 wells that resulted in a 100,000 barrel per day decrease—12 percent—in oil production. The shortfall boosted world oil prices to what now seems like a bargain: $60.81 at the close of business on October 26, 2007. The company also pleaded guilty that month to a felony and paid $50 million in fines related to an explosion at a Texas refinery that killed 15 employees and injured nearly 200 people. Furthermore, BP paid a $303 million fine to settle charges that the company manipulated prices in the propane market. On top of that, BP has a prior felony conviction for improperly disposing of hazardous waste.

That track record rubs environmentalists and opponents of drilling in ANWR the wrong way.

They say that BP’s emphasis on profit at the expense of its Prudhoe Bay pipelines could very well lead to an environmental disaster if a ban on drilling in ANWR was lifted because the company continues to neglect its own infrastructure.

Hundreds of pages of documents detailing BP's decade-long neglect of its Prudhoe Bay pipelines, its internal safety regulations, and the company's alleged cover-up of past oil spills that resulted from severely corroded pipelines support those assertions.

The BP documents, which include emails, photographs, videos, and letters sent to BP executives and Democratic and Republican lawmakers, and even President Bush, as well as internal reports, all of which were early warnings about problems plaguing BP's Prudhoe Bay operations, were written by more than 100 company whistleblowers and date back as far as 1999.

The documents provide a detailed picture of how BP seemingly ignored dozens of early warnings from employees that its drilling operations on Alaska's North Slope would be doomed if the company did not take immediate steps to upgrade its pipelines and other infrastructure.

Moreover, these records show how that over the course of five years federal and state lawmakers and other officials routinely failed to follow up on the warnings and take direct action to ensure that BP did not jeopardize a critical part of the country's oil production and that it maintained the safety of its workforce.

Chuck Hamel, an activist and former oil broker based in Alexandria, Virginia, launched the now defunct web site that housed the documents Hamel was contacted seven years ago by a group of BP employees who were concerned that the company's cost-cutting measures at its Prudhoe Bay operations would have an adverse impact on safety and operations.

"We were concerned about BP's cost cutting-efforts undermining our ability to respond to emergencies, and reducing the reliability of critical safety systems," states a letter sent to Hamel signed by dozens of BP's Prudhoe Bay employees on April 13, 2001. "We were concerned about the lack of preventative maintenance on our equipment. We had suffered a major fire, which burned a well pad module to the ground, and nearly cost one of our operators his life."

Hamel is credited with exposing weak pollution laws at the Valdez tanker port in the 1980s and electrical and maintenance problems with the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, immediately took up the BP whistleblowers' cause and in mid-2001 wrote a letter to BP President Lord John Browne raising the issue of safety and maintenance problems at the Prudhoe Bay facilities.

"Courageous 'Concerned Individuals' contacted me for assistance in reaching you," Hamel's April 11, 2001, letter to Browne said. “They have not succeeded in being heard in the past two years in London, Juneau or Washington. I am again a reluctant conduit. They hope that you will take whatever action appropriate to effect corrective action which would protect the environment, the facilities, and their safety."

Hamel sent a copy of the letter to President Bush. While Browne promised to look into the issues plaguing Prudhoe Bay, the situation there worsened as oil spills became routine, and pipelines continued to rupture.

Next Page  1  |  2  |  3


Rate It | View Ratings

Jason Leopold Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Jason Leopold is Deputy Managing Editor of and the founding editor of the online investigative news magazine The Public Record, He is the author of the National Bestseller, "News Junkie," a memoir. Visit (more...)
Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Follow Me on Twitter     Writers Guidelines
Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEdNews Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

CIA Watchdog Report Says Detainees Died During Interrogations

Whistleblower: BP Risks More Massive Catastrophes in Gulf

Newly Released E-Mails Reveal Cheney Pressured DOJ to Approve Torture

Army's "Spiritual Fitness" Test Comes Under Fire

Newly Declassified DOD Documents Reveal Detainees Tortured To Death

VA Confirms 18 Vets Commit Suicide Everyday

To View Comments or Join the Conversation: