Investigation finds Hilcorp gas leak poses risks & started earlier than first reported
A leaking gas line in the Cook Inlet does pose safety and environmental risks according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
A March 3rd Notice of Proposed Safety Order says the underwater pipeline near Nikiski must be repaired or shut down by May 1st.
“PHMSA finds that the continued operation of the Affected Pipeline Facility, without corrective measures, poses a pipeline integrity risk to public safety, property, and the environment,” said the notice.
Hilcorp reported the methane leak to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation on February 7th. The federal agency’s notice says the leak may have started in late December.
“If they didn’t know about it they should have known about it. If you’re going to be out there in the Cook Inlet you should understand how much gas is going into a pipeline and how much gas is coming out of a pipeline,” said Bob Shavelson with Cook Inlet Keeper.
Seven conservation groups called for the gas line to be shut down Tuesday, including: Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands, Greenpeace and the Eyak Preservation Council.
“I’m just afraid that more leaks are going to continue if they don’t figure out how to deal with them now,” said Dune Lankard with Center for Biological Diversity.
The federal notice says winter conditions make a repair too dangerous and states Hilcorp is concerned stopping oil production may allow a pipeline carrying crude oil to freeze and leak.
“They really haven’t shown that they have the engineering and technical wherewithal to stop an active leak which is what they should be able to do if they want to do business in Cook Inlet,” said Shavelson.
A Hilcorp spokesperson declined an interview but offered a statement which read:
“Hilcorp, together with state and federal agencies, is actively working to address a natural gas pipeline leak in the Middle Ground Shoal area of Cook Inlet. Based upon observations to date, the release does not pose a threat to the public nor the environment, however ensuring the safety of our response personnel is our top priority as we proceed. We are pleased that PHMSA’s Proposed Safety Order acknowledges this, recognizing that immediate repair is not a viable option due to current conditions and concerns for the safety of personnel. Hilcorp will continue to work with PHMSA and other state and federal agencies to ensure a thorough and timely response. Hilcorp’s focus right now is addressing the natural gas pipeline leak and ensuring the safety of our responders in the field. An investigation into the timing and cause of the leak is currently underway.”
Hilcorp has until March 8th to provide the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation a plan for sampling the air and water and monitoring for wildlife impacts.