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Fri 1 Jun 2007 12:00 AM

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Pipeline police join forces

Alaska’s natural gas routes come under scrutiny as legislative forces align.

US pipeline regulators have struck a deal to tighten control over Alaska's crude and natural gas pipelines.

Officials said the partnership between Alaska's Department of Natural Resources and the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) should help prevent pipeline leaks. The collaboration follows calls for greater preventative measures against catastrophic leaks, such as that on Prudhoe Bay, which caused the biggest oil spill on the Alaska North Slope last year. Pipeline corrosion at the Prudhoe Bay field, operated by UK firm BP, leaked around 200 000 gallons of crude last March.

"This partnership will help us to identify, assess, and address potential risks to the oil and gas transportation infrastructure, allowing us to prevent system failures before they occur," said PHMSA administrator Thomas Barrett.

The deal will consolidate federal and state inspection regimes, as well as providing a means to monitor ageing infrastructure. PHMSA regulates oil and gas transmission pipelines in Alaska, including around 200 miles of pipelines on Alaska's North Slope and the 800-mile Trans-Alaska pipeline system.

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