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UPDATEDPalin & Chevron; Spill Disaster in the Making UPDATED

After months of seismic activity, rumblings, and belches, why are 6 million gallons of oil still sitting at the base of the Mt. Redoubt Volcano in Alaska?
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Mount Redoubt is awake. Our governor is not. I'm beyond annoyed.

Currently, 6 million gallons of Alaska crude oil wait at the base of a volcano that has puked, spewed and gone half mad 19 times in the last 8 days. The years of colonization have made flaccid the response of many Alaskans. For good reason; collective PTSD from the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill and subsequent 20 year wait only to have the Supreme Court deliver Exxon a reach-around while Alaskans grabbed their ankles fuels collective disillusionment. It's ironic we need petroleum products to deal with an oil company. Sadly, our governor couldn't remember "Exxon v. Baker" when asked by Katie Couric about Supreme Court decisions she disagreed with. The 20th solemn observance of the catastrophic spill last week would have been an appropriate time for a statement, but she was loudly silent. It is a very real possibility that history could be repeated.

The Drift River marine terminal started operating in 1967. Brilliant. I know, let's put an oil storage facility at the base of a volcano. You would think it was the secret lair of the Evil Dr. Cheney; or some hilariously funny and misguided plotline from an Austin Powers film. Pipelined in from another facility, it merely holds the crude until it's ready to ride to the refinery across the inlet.

One of the reasons given for leaving 6 million gallons of crude in the storage tanks is stability; the tanks are much more stable when they have something in them. Chevron referenced Katrina and the need to keep the tanks heavy enough so they don't float away in a flood. The environmental coupon clippers decided to risk Cook Inlet in order to save empty storage tanks. DID I MENTION THEY ARE AT THE BASE OF AN ACTIVE AND EXPLODING VOLCANO? Drift River is also permitted by the EPA to treat ballast water from tankers. Were the storage tanks emptied of oil, they could be filled to safe and stable weight levels with sea water-called BALLAST when it's in a boat.

The volcanic eruption of 1989 was severe, but Cook Inlet was not at risk - the storage tanks had been emptied. 20 years later, industry initially wouldn't release the amount of oil left in the tanks citing a threat to "homeland security". So, by that logic, the terrorists would attack if they knew the crude supply in a storage facility was running a little low? REALLY? The Palin Administration, the Coast Guard, and the EPA rolled with that and regurgitated the corporate line of drivel without question. Why don't the terrorists attack the Port of Valdez? They release their crude number every day. Finally, due to relentless pressure from Cook Inlet Keepers, Chevron finally owned the fact they decided to store 6 million gallons of crude oil at the base of Mt Redoubt.

After months of seismic activity, rumblings, belches...well, all the volcanic foreplay you would expect before an eruption...why are 6 million gallons of oil still there? That's over half the size of the reported Exxon Valdez oil spill. The Coast Guard, Chevron and the State have collectively admitted that there is a lack of response equipment if the Drift River oil tanks rupture or collapse.

According to state statutes for lease conditions;

"Mitigative, Preventive, and Abatement Activities Required (a) The LESSEE will, at its own expense ....The LESSEE shall prevent or, if the procedure, activity, event or condition already exists or has occurred, shall abate, as completely as practicable, using the BEST PRACTICABLE TECHNOLOGY AVAILABLE...immediate, serious, or irreparable harm or damage to the environment (including but not limited to soil, sediments, water and air quality, areas of vegetation, fish or other wildlife populations or their habitats, or any other natural resource)."

HOLY CRAP! It's the Pottery Barn Rule! You break buy it. That's hilarious! Exxon just disproved it, and the Supreme Court set precedent for multinational corporations to have an "accident" and get a pass-just the cost of doing business. It's time to demand the State of Alaska enforce the laws we already have. It doesn't take an economist to realize a "Free-Market" capitalist society is very expensive. Chevron, like Exxon, privatize their profits and socialize their risk and loss with the livelihoods and lifestyles of the people and environment of Cook Inlet.

The Cook Inletkeepers have a call to action. This is Vitamin Democracy.

Write to the Captain of the Port - Mark Hamiltion - - and ask him to:

1) draw down the oil in the tanks at the Drift River Terminal until the volcano subsides and

2) position spill response equipment so we're ready in case things turn south.

Join Cook Inletkeepers. You can tell them I sent you. Join Renewable Resources Coalition to keep an eye on the Bristol Bay watershed and Pebble Mine updates.

I could bang my head and tell you the controlling forces in Alaska have better things to focus denying vaginal rights, bringing back the death penalty (Jesus would have loved that...oh wait, maybe not), and the "I-did-a-dog" bestiality bill. Palin's pandering appointments of W.A.R. (extremist Wayne Anthony Ross) for Attorney General and the newly converted and recent Republican Tim Grussendorf to replace Democrat Kim Elton's vacated Alaska State Senate seat are just short of a "F*@# YOU, Alaska!" press release.

But I won't rant on that just now, WE DON'T HAVE TIME!


March 31, 2009

The Honorable Sarah Palin
State of Alaska
Capitol Building
Juneau, Alaska 99801

Re: Security of Drift River Terminal in Relation to Mount Redoubt Eruption

Dear Governor Palin,

I am deeply concerned about the integrity of the Drift River Terminal storage tanks. Statements from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Coast Guard have indicated that there is not currently an adequate spill plan in place to handle a catastrophic oil spill resulting from volcanic eruptions at Mount Redoubt. Currently we only have barge capacity to remove 3 million gallons of oil, yet there are 6 million gallons of oil being stored at the Drift River facility. Our Cook Inlet fisheries are at risk due to continued volcanic eruptions from Mount Redoubt and the associated lahars and extensive flooding that have resulted and will likely continue.

During the 1989-1990 eruption of Mount Redoubt, state and federal regulators worked with industry to empty the Drift River Terminal storage tanks and effectively shut down the terminal. With months of time leading up to the March eruptions, it is unclear why alternative oil storage was not sought so that two of seven tanks could have already been emptied in similar fashion. I understand that at this point, it may be risky to remove the remaining oil from the two tanks currently in use. I also understand that Cook Inlet platforms are nearly full and it is a short matter of time before additional oil will be pumped from the pipeline into the Drift River Terminal, thereby increasing the spill risk.

It is imperative that steps be taken to safeguard our Cook Inlet fisheries from a catastrophic oil spill. During this time of heightened volcanic activity, I ask that you exercise your powers to:

1) immediately deploy adequate emergency oil spill response equipment to the site to prevent, contain, and/or mitigate a disastrous oil spill of 6 million gallons from the Drift River Terminal;
2) ensure that all prudent efforts be made to remove the oil at the Drift River Terminal in a safe and expeditious manner until volcanic threat levels subside;
3) prevent additional oil from being transported to the Drift River Terminal through the pipeline by pumping oil from well to well if necessary; and
4) ensure openness and transparency by ensuring that current and updated information about the Drift River Terminal is posted on the Alaska Volcano Observatory website:

Lastly, it is apparent that the location of the Drift River Terminal is in an unpredictably hazardous area and I ask that serious thought and planning be made for permanent relocation to an area that is not at the base of an active volcano. Alaska can not continue to risk our Cook Inlet fisheries and oil supply due to poor planning choices made over 40 years ago.

I look forward to your response and would be happy to work with you to find solutions to these issues.


Senator Bill Wielechowski

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