By Libby Casey
Fairbanks state representative David Guttenberg took his concerns about Alyeska Pipeline Service Company to the U-S Congress yesterday. Guttenberg is fighting a recent decision by Alyeska’s outgoing C-E-O, Kevin Hostler, to move more than two dozen employees from Fairbanks to Anchorage. Among the jobs going south are the company’s “integrity engineers,” who are in charge of making sure the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline is safe from corrosion, and overseeing spill response.
Guttenberg says that raises questions, and says he’s speaking on behalf of Alyeska employees who believe safety issues are being ignored.
And attempts to express those concerns were squashed at the highest level by senior management, who feared retaliation for going against the mandate of Alyeska’s then president. It became clear to me that Alyeska’s open work environment wasn’t working. Allowing poor decisions to go unchecked could have severe consequences for state of Alaska.
Despite his claims, Guttenberg will not name any Alyeska employees who share his criticism. Some of them have filed official complaints.
The state representative also admits he’s concerned about what he calls “good jobs” leaving his district.
Guttenberg testified before a House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee that’s looking into pipeline safety issues.
Alyeska vice president Greg Jones told the panel that moving the jobs should not hamper spill response or corrosion prevention:
One thing I need to correct here, and I think this is where there is some confusion, is the people we moved were office-based, they were not part of our initial response team. we have not changed response capability for first responders. We have 69 people 24-7 that are ready to go immediately, they’re dispersed throughout the stations along pipeline, and at the Valdez terminal.
Jones said the decision is based on cost-cutting, but Representative Guttenberg says safety is more important than trimming budgets.
Jones also touted Alyeska’s safety record, but Guttenberg pointed out that in May the company had a contained spill at Pump Station 9 south of Delta, and that a Fairbanks team could have better responded to such accidents because they’re closer to the pipeline than Anchorage is.
I couldn’t figure out what standard Alyeska used to determine that moving these personnel who are responsible for pipeline safety and integrity 350 miles from the pipeline would be prudent and responsible.
Alaska Republican Congressman Don Young sat in on yesterday’s hearing, and says while he’s disappointed the jobs are leaving Fairbanks, it’s up to Alyeska.
And I do not like that. But in reality they are a business, and they have the opportunity and responsibility to make sure the business is done correctly. And they have not had any damages.
Members of the House subcommittee probed the relationship between Alyeska and B-P, which is a part-owner of the pipeline, and had loaned Alyeska its C-E-O Kevin Hostler. B-P has come under scrutiny because of its oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.
But Congressman Young defended both Alyeska – and B-P.
And to somehow tie this to BP, I think is piling on. We have a lot of great Americans who work for BP. And for some reason now if you work for them, you’re a bastard. And I’m saying that’s totally wrong. These are honorable people. The company may have done something wrong in the gulf, I’m not going to defend them on that area. But as far as Alyeska pipeline, I’m quite excited about their record.
Other members of Congress reacted with surprise at Young’s defense of B-P.