Taps for TAPS? Environmental groups demand dismantling of Alaska’s pipeline

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It’s a bit of a moonshot for the environmental litigation industry, but they’re giving it their all: Several environmental groups filed a petition Wednesday with the Department of Interior, demanding an analysis of the harm that the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System does to the climate, and calling for the department to not grant a right-of-way extension in 2034 and begin phasing out TAPS.

TAPS transports about 480,000 barrels of crude oil every day from Alaska’s North Slope to Valdez, where it is shipped to refineries. It has the capacity for 2 million barrels per day, but has not seen levels exceeding 1.8 million since the heyday of Alaska’s oil boom. Alaska, once a major oil producer, has dropped to fifth place and now produces less than 4% of the nation’s oil.

Because Alaska is now a minor oil producing province, it’s an easier target for environmental lawsuits than, say, Texas or New Mexico.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Pacific Environment, Sovereign Iñupiat for a Living Arctic, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition, and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility submitted the petition, saying that the international scientific consensus is that there must be a rapid transition away from fossil fuels.

The environmentalists also claim the pipeline harms “caribou, polar bears and other vulnerable wildlife and subsistence resources in Alaska.”

“We can’t wait 10 more years for federal officials to wake up to the daily climate devastation Alaska’s oil pipeline enables,” said Cooper Freeman, Alaska director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Not only are they ignoring current threats, but fossil fuel extraction is actually expected to grow on the North Slope in the coming years. To ward off climate devastation here in Alaska and globally, we have to move quickly to plan for the end of this pipeline. The sooner we confront reality and put all our energy toward a rapid and just transition away from oil, the better.”

The group claims that massive new drilling projects on federal and state lands on Alaska’s North Slope, including the Willow and Pikka projects, could dramatically increase the oil transiting the pipeline in the coming years, although even the Willow and Pike projects are only projected to stem the decline of what is being squeezed out of other aging fields.

Rick Whitbeck, Alaska director for Power the Future, responded, “The absurdity of this petition is unbelievable. Just where do the groups think the thousands of items they touch weekly come from? Petroleum, in all of its processed forms. Would they rather wear their Patagonia and Salmon Sister boots made from Chinese or Russian oil, or from the U.S.? How do they plan to announce their next Church of Climate Change revival without phones, computers, Internet service and message boards only made possible because of the labors of hundreds of thousands of American oil and gas workers.”

Whitbeck continued, “To demand an end to TAPS is to gut Alaska’s economic engine, and it ignores a simple truth: the North Slope is seeing a renaissance because the world needs more oil, not less. There is no climate crisis, nor is there a reason to turn our daily lives upside down because the doom-and-gloom wailing of a lunatic fringe says so.” 

The Bureau of Land Management projects that Willow will deliver up to $17 billion in new revenue for the federal government, State of Alaska, and Alaska Native communities. When completed, Willow is estimated to produce approximately 600 million barrels across the 30-year lifetime of the project, which will lower American dependence on foreign energy supplies. The project is supported by the majority of Alaskans and is designed to support and coexist with subsistence activities on Alaska’s North Slope. The Willow Project survived five years of regulatory, environmental, and environmental litigation. It will create 2,500 construction jobs and about 300 long-term jobs.

“Enhancements in oil recovery techniques that are unlocking huge ‘heavy’ oil deposits in existing fields could also contribute to even more oil in the pipeline,” the group breathlessly claims.

“To build a healthy economy that doesn’t further warm the planet, Alaska must transition beyond fossil fuels,” said Kay Brown, Arctic policy director at Pacific Environment and former executive director of the Alaska Democratic Party, where she is a member of the party’s “Climate Caucus.”

Brown warned, “Alaska is warming faster than any other state and nearly four times faster than the global average. As the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System approaches the end of its life, climate change is impacting Alaska and the Arctic region significantly. It’s time for the Department of the Interior to review this nearly 50-year-old aging infrastructure and put a plan in place to decommission it. Alaska can have a thriving economy based on its abundant renewable energy as the world transitions away from fossil fuels.”

The nearly 50-year-old pipeline is also increasingly threatened by climate change-driven environmental shifts and events, such as thawing permafrost and major floods. The pipeline was originally projected to have a life expectancy of 30 years, and the risk of oil spills grows annually, the groups warn.

Pamela Miller of the Alaska Community Action on Toxics says to allow the pipeline to remain operational is “foolhardy” and “sadly ironic” that the pipeline is in “peril” because of climate change.

“It’s foolhardy for the Department of the Interior to ignore the hazards associated with further dependence on fossil fuels and aging infrastructure of the TAPS given the climate crisis that we are facing,” said Miller. “It is sadly ironic that the pipeline is in peril largely because of climate warming and lack of planning for this consequence. We call on Interior for a visionary approach to stopping harmful oil development and to make it possible for a quick transition to clean, renewable energy. BLM must implement a plan to safely decommission the pipeline.”

The coalition points out that the right of way granted by the Bureau of Land Management in 1974 was renewed in 2004 and is set to expire in 2034. They are gearing up now to ensure that it doesn’t get renewed in 10 years.

“Alaskans are on the frontlines of climate tipping points,” said Tara Starlight, communications manager at Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition. “We must act urgently to ensure that Alaskans do not also bear the brunt of inevitable and enormous costs for Dismantlement, Removal, and Restoration (DR&R) of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline when the time comes due. If we seize the opportunity to plan ahead and include impacted communities early, we can build a future that ensures the health of people and our ecosystems.”

Today’s petition argues that “an abundance of new information, including new science about the climate crisis, the risk of oil spills, and harms to people and wildlife from fossil fuel development shows that the existing analysis is woefully outdated.”

What it ignores is that dismantling Alaska’s pipeline would destroy the state’s economy and turn it into another Appalachia, with a few pockets of isolated residents who would languish in poverty, while the environmental nonprofit groups thrive in their cities of the Lower 48.

The petition asks Interior to “immediately initiate and complete a supplemental environmental impact statement, include meaningful alternatives and mitigation measures, and draft a plan for the decommissioning, removal and restoration of the pipeline.”

37 COMMENTS

  1. Follow the money. See where these jackasses get their funding, and go after the funding sources.

    • List the names of the officers in these “non-profit” cabals. Eventually, somebody is going to want to know who these people are.

    • MA, only in ’74 when we were building the “Haul Road” later named the Dalton Highway these same Climate Activist were claiming that we were entering a new “Ice Age”. Truth, look it up.

    • Correct, but a lot of old timers claim that Alaska was a lot better before oil ever came into the picture. Post-oil Alaskans have become completely dependent on oil jobs, PFDs, and huge State expenditures made possible solely by oil revenue. So fun to watch them get so jacked up at even the suggestion of a return to the old days.

      • Ah, yes, the fake progressive ‘grizzled’ nostalgia for 1950’s Alaska.

        So the feds are going to re-open the timber harvest in the Tongass, return land seized during the 1980 expansion of McKinley Park, and roll back the federal environmental regulations strangling extractive industries such as fishing and gold mining? Roll back Obama-era particulate regulations that are currently outlawing wood and coal burning in Fairbanks?

        Nah, these leftist posers don’t want any of that – just the cherry picked stuff, like a state income tax and tearing down the Pipeline.

      • Hans, Salmon fisheries are toast due to Fish Farms and reasons brought on by our political management of the fisheries. The fur industry is in shambles. Logging is gone. Mining has a few bright spots in Alaska, but not enough to replace Oil. Once the petro-chemical industry goes the way of the buggy whip, what next?
        Oh, wait, the dismantling of eight hundred miles of pipe, VSM’s and pad and the reclamation of it all! Groovy, that should provide four or five years of employment for a few, then what?
        Help us out here Hans, please enlighten us with your wisdom and give us hope…

        • You haven’t understood me. I’m all in favor of keeping the pipeline and favor oil development. What amuses me here, however, is hearing terror rising in the voices of spoiled Alaskans whenever there’s even a hint of a pullback in the industry. Yeah, grizzled old self-reliant Alaskans they are, with their petrobucks, their huge homes on the Hillside, their PFDs, and their low-to-no tax burdens.

      • Only because the brainwashed, leftwing extremists all flooded into Alaska and got themselves government-fqunded jobs courtesy of oil royalty wealth. Alaska was very conservative in the “old days.” The outsiders came into Alaska to milk the new found wealth. And now they won’t leave. Yes, I lived the “old days” too, when wacko Democrats were a very endangered species. Those were the best days.

    • Please describe the raw materials used to manufacture the computer with which you posted your comment. Do you ever ride in a car or shop in a grocery store? If you were sincere about your expressed concerns you would live a neolithic lifestyle. Hypocrite.

  2. Has the time been long enough that the Anchorage People have forgotten about the 10 cents per gallon health tax? Someone was talking about this recently after having asked why fuel is more expensive in Anchorage. Where is that money going? Someone(s) is making good money off of that tax. Where is that money going? If the pipeline is disassembled, Anchorage will not make that lush fund money anymore.

  3. But nobody wants to talk about the weather modification programs that are going full force up here? Don’t even pull “conspiracy theory” on me with this, it’s all out in the open with all the information you could ever need to understand what they are doing. If you don’t believe it is happening you can use this page (the NOAA weather modification report page)to start on your weather modification education but realize these reports are ONLY the non government reports. The government doesn’t have to file any reports or tell us anything about what they are doing! Pay attention to the sky and watch how a bluebird day turns into an unnatural haze of cloud cover after the planes cross cross across the sky spraying all the particles they use for weather modification. But yeah, let’s take down the pipeline instead. Idiots. ‘https://libguides.library.noaa.gov/weather-climate/weather-modification-project-reports

    • “………Don’t even pull “conspiracy theory” on me with this………”
      Conspiracy theory.

    • I agree Court. Take away our way to gas and spray the crud out of us. No conspiracy theory – our skies are being sprayed now “to keep the earth cooler.” B.S. It is being done for a multitude of reasons and the main one is to help rid the earth of the pesky humans.

  4. The Biden administration has gone all in on renewable energy sources. In reality, they rely on massive government subsidies for ‘green energy’ projects which would never pencil out without them. Economics be damned. They consider all Fossil fuel energy as being inherently bad- even natural gas which once had been touted as ‘clean energy’. Not any more! This petition to eliminate TAPS is the latest act of lunacy by radical environmentalists. Renewables have a very long way to go to provide reliable energy for Alaskans in this harsh environment. There is no alternative in the near future. What to do? First, stop voting for democrats! Democrat administrations are bad for the Alaska economy. They support pushing for renewable energy mandates don’t make sense for Alaska economy and shutting down most oil & gas projects. Second, support environmentally sound oil & gas projects that exploit Alaska’s vast resources. This will stop the hemorrhaging of our youth to the south and save our sinking economy.

  5. Destroying Alaska’s economy is a feature, not a bug, to those freaks.. They’d prefer we all just die and get out of THEIR playground

  6. IMAGINE we had some crazy Alaskan kill all our oath breakers in one day. & the jury said NOT GUILTY what will it take to get OATH INTEGRITY ALL.

    • Why do you continually try to incite discontent and violence? These people holding offices did not even take legit oaths of office: from state to the White House. They all work for an illegal foreign regime and never took a legit, legal oath. They cannot break an oath when they did not take one. Review all of Attorney Todd Callendar and Lisa McGee’s research on oaths of office. You want something done??? You apparently think you know what needs to be done to get these “oath breakers,” so get working on it.

    • Hans, the old Texan jokes from the late ’60s and 70’s are not funny anymore and frankly are repugnant and racist. Are you a Racist Han’s?
      What’s going to be even less funny is when the Inupiaq people begin to experience the damage caused by these greenies when the oil stops flowing. Living in the cold and dark isn’t much fun…

  7. LOL…..while these extreme climate fanatics fill up their cars at the gas station, fly jets to their favorite beaches, and warm their homes in the winter. These are some of the most brainwashed, hypocrites you can imagine. Most of these idiots have no idea that they get from cradle to grave courtesy of petroleum products. And so will their grandchildren.

  8. A large part of me hopes they can pull off their oil free, money free utopia.

    Those idiots would Darwin themselves out of existence.

  9. Hippy is short for hypocrite.

    The hypocrisy of these envirokooks is noted, documented, and ignored in their own ranks. That’s funny.

    Keep calling it out:

    “The absurdity of this petition is unbelievable. Just where do the groups think the thousands of items they touch weekly come from? Petroleum, in all of its processed forms. Would they rather wear their Patagonia and Salmon Sister boots made from Chinese or Russian oil, or from the U.S.? How do they plan to announce their next Church of Climate Change revival without phones, computers, Internet service and message boards only made possible because of the labors of hundreds of thousands of American oil and gas workers.”

  10. If they succeed in getting the pipeline dismantled, we’ll never be able to build another one. This country isn’t capable of these sorts of large infrastructure projects anymore.

  11. Environmentalists are the epitome of destructive policy makers. Very little good stuff done by them as they are always lowering our productivity, prosperity and wealth making. They are something out of the dark side.

  12. Color me naive, but how would this be different from going to the kitchen knife drawer and slitting your own throat with a butcher knife?

    • Since when have leftists every done anything except cut off their own nose to spite their face?

  13. Over the years I have seen some states, Blue ones, go against federal laws for various things as well as against Republican President’s executive orders by fighting them in court or simply refusing to follow written laws.
    Maybe it is time that Alaska puts its foot down and ignore the Feds and ramp up Oil and gas Production. Ramp up mineral resource production as well. If the Feds say we cannot sell to the USA, then, sell to foreign countries or use it to develop growth of industries in Alaska. We have to do something to secure Alaskan’s economy and our well being. That includes gas production within the state for energy and heating of homes and businesses. Maybe if we told the Feds that we are going to look out for ourselves, other states would follow. When tyrants are in charge and their laws, policies, or directives do not affect them but affects the average citizen, then we have to look out for ourselves. Oh, and refuse to take any more asylum seekers or illegal aliens. We taxpayers cannot afford this.

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