Environmental group calls for shutdown of leaking gas line in Cook Inlet

Local environmental group Cook Inletkeeper is calling a gas leak in the Inlet “serious,” while Hilcorp characterizes the incident as “low risk.” (Photo by Paxson Woebler/Wikimedia Commons)

A local environmental group is calling on regulators to shut down a leaking gas line in Cook Inlet until it is repaired. The leak, first reported by the Alaska Dispatch News, is coming from an 8-inch gas pipeline owned by Hilcorp. In the report, Hilcorp characterized the leak as “low risk” and said the appropriate response agencies were notified. But in a letter sent to regulators Friday, Cook Inletkeeper accused both Hilcorp and Cook Inlet Spill Prevention and Response, Inc. of downplaying the incident.

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Cook Inletkeeper’s Bob Shavelson called the leak a serious environmental threat.

“Dealing with the oil and gas industry in Cook Inlet, whenever there’s a leak, it’s always minimized at first,” Shavelson said. “That’s what I believe we saw here, and I think the reality is you’ve got a sizable risk and it needs to be addressed.”

Todd Paxton, general manager of Cook Inlet Spill Prevention and Response, Inc., said he maintains the leak is low risk, emphasizing it is not a liquid spill. Paxton added that Hilcorp is “aggressively” seeking a solution to the issue.

Hilcorp did not to return a request for comment in time for publication.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) said it could not provide an estimate for the size of the leak at this time.

“The platform itself is not in our jurisdiction, as we do not regulate natural gas, only liquid products,” DEC spokeswoman Candice Bressler said in an email. “That said, we continue to interact with Hilcorp to gather information on this situation in case of any environmental impact.”

According to DEC, the leaking pipeline runs from Nikiski to an offshore platform, which was built in 1964. Hilcorp first reported the leak to DEC on Feb. 7.

Based in Texas, Hilcorp is relatively new to Alaska. Over the last five years, it has become the largest natural gas producer in Cook Inlet. State regulators recently hit Hilcorp with a series of fines for safety and environmental violations.

Elizabeth Harball is a reporter with Alaska's Energy Desk, covering Alaska’s oil and gas industry and environmental policy. She is a contributor to the Energy Desk’s Midnight Oil podcast series. Before moving to Alaska in 2016, Harball worked at E&E News in Washington, D.C., where she covered federal and state climate change policy. Originally from Kalispell, Montana, Harball is a graduate of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

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