Adequacy of the Regulatory Oversight of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and Terminal

Gao ID: T-RCED-90-55 March 29, 1990

GAO discussed the adequacy of federal, state, and private regulatory oversight to ensure the safe operation and maintenance of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS). GAO noted that: (1) several federal and state government agencies had oversight responsibilities regarding TAPS operation and maintenance and compliance with various safety, emergency response, and environmental requirements; (2) none of the agencies had the necessary disciplined oversight approach, detailed guidance on monitoring or enforcement procedures, adequate numbers of well-trained staff, or clear lines of regulatory and oversight authority; (3) agencies performed only limited oversight of TAPS; (4) although several agencies and the TAPS agent were aware of long-standing pipeline corrosion problems, they did not require increased monitoring for corrosion, did not independently assess corrosion detection data, and did not determine the extent, severity, and causes of corrosion problems; (5) no agency had tested the TAPS agent's emergency response capability and plan for oil spills; and (6) in response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill, several agencies sought to improve oil spill prevention, as well as TAPS oversight and coordination, through formation of a joint committee to review spill contingency plans and through increased monitoring, staffing, and expertise. GAO believes that a unified oversight approach, with designated leadership for such areas as prevention, detection, and spill response, is needed to ensure the safe operation and maintenance of TAPS.

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