Homer Alaska - Letters

Story last updated at 4:19 PM on Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cook Inlet deserves better protection

As a new wave of oil and gas development descends upon Cook Inlet, its important to recognize Cook Inlet receives considerably less scrutiny from regulators than other oil producing regions in Alaska and beyond. Buccaneer Energy is a good example. Buccaneer is the company using state of Alaska funds to upgrade a jack-up drill rig in Singapore before bringing it into service in Cook Inlet later this year. Buccaneer has already riled private property owners around the Kenai area, many of whom have refused to grant the company access to their properties for seismic work.

Just this past week, the Army Corps let Buccaneer off the hook for hundreds of violations of the Clean Water Act, after Buccaneer failed to obtain a permit for setting explosives in wetlands. The Corps issued no fine, and an after-the-fact permit for the violations.

Across Cook Inlet, the Christie Lee platform where tankers load crude from the Drift River Terminal and facilities upstream lost a massive fender needed to dock vessels. So now, Hilcorp the Texas independent which bought Chevrons Cook Inlet assets last year may very well store oil again at the base of an active volcano (recall last time Redoubt erupted, Chevron left 6 million gallons of crude teetering above our fisheries as massive lahars swept around the Drift River tank farm).

Finally, at the docks in Nikiski, a tug helping to keep a tanker against the dock during a large tide and ice episode apparently lost power, dragging the tanker dangerously down the dock. Quick action prevented a major casualty, but weve known since at least 1993 those docks are notoriously dangerous, and yet we continue to operate right up to the edge of safety.

If these stories were anomalies, it would be one thing. But theyre not; theyre business as usual in Cook Inlet. As new exploration and development unfold in Cook Inlet, our politicians and regulators need to treat Cook Inlet like the world-class resource it is.

Bob Shavelson, director of advocacy

Cook Inletkeeper