Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, February 15, 2017

Contact: Kristen Monsell, (914) 806-3467,

Cook Inlet Gas Pipeline Leak Shows Risks of Offshore Drilling

Hilcorp Alaska Has Been Fined for Disregarding Regulations, Seeks to Build Massive Liberty Project in Beaufort Sea  

ANCHORAGE, Alaska— Hilcorp Alaska LLC, the operator of the leaking natural gas pipeline in Cook Inlet, has been warned by federal regulators to improve maintenance of its gas pipelines. State regulators have also repeatedly fined the company and said “disregard for regulatory compliance is endemic to Hilcorp's approach to its Alaska operations.”

Hilcorp is seeking to build the controversial Liberty project, which involves a 5.6-mile pipeline in the Beaufort Sea. The company's Cook Inlet pipeline is currently leaking and diverting maritime traffic around waters bubbling with the flammable gas. Federal officials have said the pipeline leak could harm endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales, which number just 340 animals.

“This leaking gas pipeline may be a warning. Liberty is a huge, complex project that can't be trusted to a company that recklessly disregards regulations,” said Kristen Monsell, a Center for Biological Diversity attorney who has raised concerns about the Liberty project. “Offshore drilling in the treacherous waters around Alaska is inherently dangerous, and it's no place for operators who ignore safety rules.”

The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued Hilcorp warning letters over its gas pipelines in September and January of 2016 and December 2015, citing improper maintenance, corrosion control and control-room management.

The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has also repeatedly cited Hilcorp for violating safety regulations for its oil and gas operations in the state. In December 2016 the commission fined Hilcorp $30,000 for failing to calibrate its gas meters or submit required reports from August 2014 through December 2016. In its order the commission wrote, “Hilcorp's history of noncompliance and its failure to take the rudimentary measure of entering AOGCC's requirements in its regulatory tracking system preclude any claim that Hilcorp has acted in good faith.”

Just seven months earlier, the commission fined Hilcorp $20,000 for failing to test crucial blowout-prevention devices, calling its communications over the incident “misleading and incomplete” and writing “disregard for regulatory compliance is endemic to Hilcorp's approach to its Alaska operations.”  

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is currently considering an application by Hilcorp Alaska to build the Liberty project, which was initiated by oil giant BP more than 10 years ago. That project would involve constructing a nine-acre artificial island in the Beaufort Sea, drilling horizontal well to tap underwater oil reserves, and building an underwater pipeline more than five miles long to send the oil to onshore facilities.    

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.2 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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