Trans-Alaska Pipeline

Regulators Have Not Ensured That Government Requirements Are Being Met Gao ID: RCED-91-89 July 19, 1991

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the adequacy of regulatory oversight of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), focusing on TAPS: (1) operational safety; (2) oil spill response capabilities; and (3) ability to protect the environment.

GAO found that: (1) several federal and state agencies had TAPS monitoring, oversight, and enforcement responsibilities; (2) regulators essentially accepted the pipeline operation contractor's reports regarding TAPS conditions and did not independently evaluate corrosion prevention and detection systems; (3) although aware of deficiencies in the corrosion prevention and detection systems, regulators did not direct the contractor to take action until after the contractor detected significant pipeline corrosion in 1989; (4) regulators conducted little oversight of terminal operations; (5) regulatory review of the oil-spill response plan was cursory until after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, after which federal and state regulators reevaluated oil-spill risks and response capabilities; (6) regulators do not plan to require the contractor to conduct a drill to fully test its response capabilities; (7) there was no long-term monitoring program to assess TAPS overall environmental impact, making it difficult to assess oil-spill impacts or to identify the most appropriate containment, cleanup, and disposal technologies; (8) regulators did not have adequate systems to carry out their oversight responsibilities, did not dedicate sufficient staff for monitoring pipeline activities, and did not coordinate oversight activities to ensure comprehensive monitoring of all pipeline activities; and (9) several regulators assigned staff to a joint oversight office composed of federal and state agencies with statutory authority over TAPS.


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