By Margi Dashevsky
For The Cordova Times
Some people concerned with Hilcorp’s environmental track record have dubbed the company “Spillcorp.” Are they wrong to do so?
Hilcorp has had 66 environmental violations (including spilling 10,000 gallons in 2015 on the North Slope) and three major workplace safety violations (including three workers who nearly died in 2015 and one fatality in 2019, both on the North Slope) since 2000. The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC) stated, “The disregard for regulatory compliance is endemic to Hilcorp’s approach to its Alaska operations and virtually assured the occurrence of this violation … Hilcorp’s conduct is inexcusable.” Hilcorp’s pipeline affiliate, Harvest, has the second-to-worst track record of companies operating over 300 miles of pipeline in the US, in terms of spills, according the U.S. government’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
For those who wonder if the BP-Hilcorp deal is setting Alaska up for the next Exxon Valdez oil spill, transparency is crucial to demonstrate Hilcorp is up to the task of managing a near-majority share of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. Hilcorp should demonstrate they have sufficient assets to maintain pipeline infrastructure and clean up oil spills. How else can the public discern if Hilcorp will responsibly steward some of Alaska’s most precious resources?
A spill like the Exxon Valdez oil spill cost $20 billion and BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill cost $65 billion. These figures dwarf the value of the entire BP-Hilcorp sale which is a mere $5.6 billion. If we aren’t privy to Hilcorp’s finances, how can we know that they will be able to clean up costly spills and not go bankrupt, leaving the state to foot the bill? More importantly, how can we know if they are well enough managed to prevent such accidents? We need to know if Hilcorp is financially capable of mitigating liabilities and maintaining infrastructure. Responsible operation of these assets is vital for our state’s future success and fundamental economic viability.
I am a lifelong Alaskan who has grown up appreciating the state’s beauty and bounty. In the interest of protecting the health of our home, I urge the Regulatory Commission of Alaska (RCA) to rule in favor of transparency. Of the nearly 100 people who testified before the Commision on Feb. 4, 63 percent were in favor of transparency. Testimony closed at 9 p.m. with a dramatic trend: the last 33 people testified in favor of transparency — perhaps because those against had clocked out at 5 p.m. During my testimony I held up a jar of crude oil collected from Prince William Sound 13 years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which occurred in 1989, when I was 2 years old. The impacts of oil spills outlive all of us. The RCA’s ruling will have far-reaching ramifications and they should not be alone: the executive branch and the legislature should respond to the overwhelming public request for transparency and should invite public testimony.
Alaskans deserve transparent information to ensure this historic deal between BP and Hilcorp is in our interest. This is one piece of a very large question that our state needs to answer as we figure out how to diversify our economy and support a sustainable and prosperous future for everyone. The Alaskan public has a right to know how Hilcorp, a small, Texas-based private corporation, founded by a former Exxon employee, will be held accountable and not be permitted to continue their poor human and environmental safety track record.
I’m afraid Hilcorp is not up to the task and ask that they prove me wrong. Hilcorp should disclose the financial statements of Harvest Alaska, Hilcorp Alaska and Harvest Midstream, before the sale is allowed to proceed. If Hilcorp does not stand up to public scrutiny then the deal should not go forward.
Margi Dashevsky is a lifelong Alaskan who currently resides in Anchorage.