New oil and gas exploration in the Cook Inlet basin, coupled with the prospect of the Alaska LNG Project’s natural gas pipeline ending in Nikiski, are creating plenty of benefits for our community.
But there are negative impacts, too, and the companies benefitting from the boom should be doing all they can to mitigate those impacts.
Case in point are issues in Nikiski with Baker Hughes, an oilfield services company which recently dumped a cement mixture on its property. The mixture spread onto a neighboring property, and required a team of hazardous materials specialists to clean up.
While dumping the cement mixture on its own property was not illegal, officials with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation have told the Clarion that it certainly is not a best practice.
Making the situation worse, when the substance contaminated the adjoining property, company officials from Baker Hughes refused to provide details of what was in the substance to the property owner — leaving him to wonder just what he’d been exposed to. The DEC provided the Clarion the material safety data sheet for the cement, which, it was noted, is considered hazardous by the Occupational Safety Health Administration.
The company is cleaning up the mess, but the fact that it happened in the first place is unacceptable. Residents here are generally supportive of exploration and development — provided it’s done in a way that doesn’t threaten our other resources, our health and our environment. Taking shortcuts when disposing of hazardous materials does all of those things.
What’s more, when companies do make a mistake, they need to be much more forthcoming about the potential impact. Most Kenai Peninsula residents wouldn’t even know where to start if they suspected their property of being contaminated, never mind have the resources to be able to challenge a huge international corporation. The public deserves to know when industry actions affect their lives, and industry should be responsible and responsive in addressing problems and sharing information with those affected.
We’re appreciative of the many contributions made by the oil and gas industry to our region, and people here welcome the investment. But we’d ask that the industry show the same respect and ensure that best practice principles be applied to everything it does. Cutting corners just doesn’t cut it any more.