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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

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 visibly unstable. "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