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Alaska oil pipeline leak stopped, threat to wildlife unclear

Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The flow of oil from an underwater pipeline leak discovered in Alaska’s southern Cook Inlet over the weekend has been stopped, but it’s unclear how much crude poured into the water posing a threat to wildlife.

The leak was discovered Saturday coming from an 8-inch-wide pipeline that was carrying more than 19,000 gallons of crude oil, according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. Workers on a Hilcorp Alaska LLC offshore platform noticed an oil sheen and bubbling from underwater.

State officials said the flow was halted Sunday, but they did not yet know what caused the leak on the west side of Cook Inlet southwest of Anchorage and were assessing any environmental damage. The inlet stretches 180 miles from the Gulf of Alaska to Anchorage.

“I am deeply concerned about the potential impact to the environment,” Gov. Bill Walker said in a statement Sunday. “Our Spill Prevention and Response Team has immediately responded, and is keeping me apprised of developments.”

The pipeline is 75 feet under the surface of Cook Inlet and links two platforms. Hilcorp Alaska shut down one of its platforms and lowered pressure in the pipeline to zero.

Hilcorp, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Environmental Conservation department set up a command post in response to the spill. Dozens of species of fish, birds and marine mammals live in the waters, including endangered beluga whales, Steller sea lions and humpback whales.

Natural gas has been leaking from another Hilcorp pipeline in the Cook Inlet since mid-December. The company temporarily shut down production last weekend, reducing the platforms’ need for energy and allowing Hilcorp to reduce pressure in the leaking line.

The company said the sea ice is too thick to safely send divers down to fix the leak, so that line has not yet been repaired.

The two leaks are unrelated.

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