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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Below is a list of frequently asked questions about TAPS, the TAPS renewal process, and the TAPS Renewal EIS. Click a question below to see the answer.

Questions About TAPS

Questions about the TAPS Renewal Process

Questions about the TAPS Renewal EIS

What is TAPS?

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (most commonly referred to as "TAPS") is the transportation system that moves crude oil from the Alaskan North Slope to the Valdez Marine Terminal. The system includes about 800 miles of 48-inch diameter crude oil pipeline, pump stations, communications sites, material sites, a work pad and access roads, and other related facilities.

For more information about TAPS, including a more detailed description, history, maps, and photos of TAPS, visit the "TAPS Guide."

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Who owns TAPS?

The pipeline itself and the related facilities that constitute the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System are owned by the following companies: BP Pipelines (Alaska) Inc.; Phillips Transportation Alaska, Inc.; ExxonMobil Pipeline Company; Williams Alaska Pipeline Company, L.L.C.; Amerada Hess Pipeline Corporation; and Unocal Pipeline Company. Alyeska Pipeline Service Company (Alyeska) operates the TAPS as agent for the six TAPS owners.

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Who owns the land TAPS crosses?

The land upon which the pipeline is located is referred to as the TAPS right-of-way. Right-of-way land ownership is:

  • Federal Government: 375 miles
  • State Government: 344 miles
  • Native Allotments/Corporations: 51 miles
  • TAPS Owners: 8 miles
  • Other Private: 22 miles

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How did the TAPS owners get to use state and federal land?

For someone to use State or Federal land, they must have the appropriate authorization from the landowner. In the case of TAPS, the state and federal governments issued 30-year right-of-way grants to the TAPS owners to construct, operate, and maintain an oil transportation pipeline and related facilities on the respective state and federal lands they manage. The nominal width of the right-of-way is 100 feet on state land. On Federal land, the nominal width of the right-of-way is 54 feet for buried pipeline and 64 feet for elevated (aboveground) pipeline. About 420 miles of pipe is above ground and about 380 miles is buried.

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What is right-of-way renewal?

For the pipeline to remain in place and in operation, the state and federal right-of-way authorizations, which currently expire in 2004, must be renewed.

The governments must renew right-of-way grants to take the place of the ones that expire in 2004.

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What is the Joint Pipeline Office?

The Joint Pipeline Office (JPO) consists of Federal and State agencies that authorize and oversee pipelines, including TAPS, on Federal and State lands in Alaska. The U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (ADNR) lead the JPO. The JPO was established in 1990 in response to the need for a comprehensive approach to monitoring and regulating the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. The Alaska Department of Natural Resources and the Bureau of Land Management will lead the process for renewal of the right-of-way. A special team of JPO staff is now dedicated to the renewal process.

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For what period were the initial federal and state right-of-way agreements?

The Federal Grant and State Lease for the TAPS right-of-way were issued for a 30-year term. The Federal Grant expired on January 22, 2004, while the State Lease expired on May 2, 2004.

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What is the renewal period for the TAPS grant and lease?

The Federal Grant and State Lease may each be renewed for a term up to 30 years.

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What are the requirements of the current TAPS grant and lease?

The Federal Grant and State Lease can be found on the JPO TAPS Renewal web site. You will notice that in many cases, the two documents impose the same requirements on the TAPS owners.

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What is considered in right-of-way renewal?

Many diverse environmental, social, and economic issues will be addressed. These issues are complex and are best analyzed with the full participation of interested groups and individuals. Determinations of grant and lease compliance, other statutory and regulatory compliance, and useful life of the TAPS will be addressed separately in the TAPAA report, which should be available around the same time as the Draft EIS.

The federal regulations regarding oil pipeline renewal (contained primarily in 43 CFR 2880) generally state that a pipeline shall be renewed if it is being operated and maintained in accordance with all provisions of the right-of-way grant, the applicable federal regulations, and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act (TAPAA). The terms and conditions of the right-of-way grant can be modified at the time of renewal, but only with good cause and/or the holder's consent. Generally, only conditions created by new law and/or involving major health and safety conditions will be considered good cause.

State law (AS 38.35.110 and 11 AAC 80.075) allows a pipeline right-of-way lease to be renewed so long as the lessee is in commercial operation, is in full compliance with all state law, and is in compliance with all terms and conditions of the lease. Revisions to an existing lease at the time of renewal are within the discretion of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (ADNR) Commissioner; however, it is the policy of ADNR that revisions will only be made for good cause.

The JPO TAPS Renewal web site provides a link to applicable federal regulations and state laws.

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What types of documents can I expect to see addressing renewal?

The federal government is requiring that an environmental impact statement (EIS) be prepared (under provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act) for the TAPS renewal proposal. The Alaska State Department of Natural Resources will complete a Proposed Determination and other written decisions that may be required by state law. Other federal or state reports (such as the TAPAA report) may also be prepared.

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How can I participate?

The public will have the opportunity to comment at various times during the renewal process. These comment periods will be advertised in newspapers and described in the JPO TAPS Renewal web site.

See "Getting Involved" to learn how you can participate in the EIS process.

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What is an EIS?

"EIS" is the abbreviation for environmental impact statement, a document prepared to describe the effects of proposed activities on the environment. "Environment," in this case, is defined as the natural and physical environment and the relationship of people with that environment. This means that the "environment" considered in an EIS includes land, water, air, structures, living organisms, environmental values at the site, and social, cultural, and economic factors.

An "impact" is a change or consequence that results from an activity. Impacts can be positive or negative, or both. An EIS describes impacts, as well as ways to "mitigate" impacts. To "mitigate" means to lessen or remove negative impacts.

Therefore, an environmental impact statement, or EIS, is a document that describes the impacts on the environment as a result of a proposed action. It also describes impacts of alternatives as well as plans to mitigate the impacts.

For more information on the TAPS EIS, visit "Renewal EIS."

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Why is an EIS needed for TAPS Renewal?

Federal laws and regulations require the federal government to evaluate the effects of its actions on the environment and to consider alternative courses of action. The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) specifies when an environmental impact statement must be prepared. The TAPS Renewal EIS is needed to maintain compliance with NEPA.

For more information, visit "Why the EIS Is Needed."

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What's covered in the TAPS Renewal EIS?

The draft EIS has eight chapters, eight appendices, an executive summary, a comment and response document, a map atlas, and an acronym and units of measure list.

The four major chapters cover:

  • introductory material, including description of TAPS and scope of the EIS,
  • alternatives analyzed in the EIS,
  • affected environments,
  • environmental consequences.

The major appendices cover:

  • methodology descriptions
  • TAPS Right-Of-Way (ROW) map atlas,
  • subsistence patterns and impacts on subsistence.

For more information, visit the "Renewal EIS Guide."

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What alternatives and impacts are addressed in the TAPS Renewal EIS?

The TAPS Renewal EIS will assess the environmental impacts associated with the TAPS owners' proposal to renew the existing 30-year grant of the right-of-way for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, environmental impacts associated with renewal of the grant of right-of-way for a period of less than thirty years, and impacts associated with the "no-action alternative" of not renewing the Federal Grant, in which case TAPS would be dismantled and the aboveground portions removed.

For detailed information on the scope of the EIS including a list of impacts addressed, visit "Alternatives and Impacts Addressed in the EIS."

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What are the major findings of the Final EIS?

The FEIS Summary Presentation provides a brief summary of the contents and major findings of the FEIS. More detailed summary information is available in the Executive Summary document.

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How long will it take to do the TAPS Renewal EIS?

The TAPS Renewal EIS will be completed by the end of 2002.

For up-to-date schedule information, visit "EIS Schedule."

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How can I participate in the TAPS Renewal EIS?

You can attend public hearings for the TAPS Renewal Draft EIS, which will be held in seven Alaskan communities from July 26 - August 9, 2002. At the meetings, you can provide comments about the Draft EIS. There are also five other ways for you to provide comments: through the Web (preferred), through the mail, by hand delivery, and by, fax, or voice message.

For more information, visit "Getting Involved."

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