Global Warming Issues
Global Warming May Threaten the Integrity of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline
For immediate release: May 29, 2001
For more information contact Ross Coen at email@example.com
As scientists from around the country come to Alaska this week for the
Global Climate Change hearings chaired by Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), the
Alaska Forum for Environmental Responsibility warns that the Trans-Alaska
Pipeline (TAPS) may be at risk due to warming temperatures.
The above-ground sections of TAPS, some 420 miles, rest on Vertical Support
Members (VSMs), which resemble H-shaped pilings. Of the 78,000 total VSMs,
the Alaska Forum for Environmental Responsibility believes that some 25,000
are moving - either sinking into or jacking out of the ground due to
permafrost changes, or leaning at some degree away from vertical.
"Nearly one-third of the VSMs on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline may be
unstable," said Ross Coen, Executive Director of the Alaska Forum for
Environmental Responsibility. "This is a huge issue of the pipeline's
structural integrity. As climate change continues to affect the Alaska
environment, how can we be sure that an already serious problem with the
VSMs won't get worse?"
The VSMs on TAPS were drilled to depths of 15 to 70 feet. However, as
permafrost conditions change, the VSMs may sink into the ground, jack up
out of the ground, and/or tilt, bend, and lean.
Despite the claims made by Alyeska Pipeline Service Company that the heat
transfer pipes are sufficiently protecting the permafrost, the company had
to replace some 38 VSMs at Squirrel Creek last year. Those VSMs were
"Just four weeks ago, the owners of TAPS filed applications to renew the
state and federal Right-of-Way permits on the pipeline for another 30
years," said Coen. "Yet they've provided no details and have outlined no
plans for how they intend to guarantee VSM integrity for the next 30 years."
The Alaska Forum for Environmental Responsibility has submitted a letter to
Senator Stevens and members of the Global Climate Change panel asking them
to consider the safety and efficacy of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in their
discussions on climate change.
The Alaska Forum for Environmental Responsibility is a non-profit
organization dedicated to holding industry and government accountable to
the laws designed to safeguard Alaska's people and environment.
Scientist Says Warming Climate May Affect Pipeline Stability
AFER's Letter to Senator Stevens Regarding Climate Changes - May 29, 2001
AFER's Letter to William Howitt - June 18, 2001