[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/06/23/alaska.pipeline.jpg caption="A buried section of the 800 mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline carries crude oil from Prudhoe Bay to the ice free port of Valdez, Alaska."]
Randi Kaye | BIO
Program Note: See Randi Kaye's full report tonight on AC360° at 10pm ET.
“Where do I begin?”
That’s what I asked myself this week as I found myself sitting in my office at CNN in New York City with a mountain of documents in front of me. Hundreds of documents that were given to us from a BP Alaska employee named Marc Kovac. It was up to my producer, Susan Chun, and me to make sense of it all.
Kovac has been with BP since 1977. He started when he was just 24. Today he builds compressors for them but he worked on the pipelines for 18 years on Alaska’s North Slope. Kovac first shared his story with the nonprofit news website, TruthOut.Org, and when we called him he had plenty more to say.
Kovac believes what happened in the Gulf of Mexico, with the Deepwater Horizon explosion, is bound to happen in Prudhoe Bay in Alaska. He says BP Alaska is a ticking time bomb. Kovac says, BP has a history of spills, fires, and explosions there. He says employees have died because BP cuts corners when it comes to safety to save money. BP’s Steve Rinehart, in response, told me their budget does not impact their safety program.
Another popular theme in my mountain of paperwork and BP documents was corrosion. Kovac worries there aren’t enough workers to monitor all the pipeline for corrosion and leaks. If a pipeline gets heavily corroded it can explode or burst. That’s what happened in 2006 in Prudhoe Bay. An aging corroded pipeline burst and 200,000 barrels of oil spilled. A federal judge fined BP $20 million and put the oil giant on probation for three years. BP plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of violating the Clean Water Act. The company told us its “corrosion efforts have improved” in recent years and they’ve upped their “pipeline inspections from 40,000 to 90,000 this year.”
Kovac is certainly showing courage talking with us. We weren’t sure he’d agree to an on camera interview since he still works for the company but he did. He did say he expects BP management to come down on him for doing an interview with us since, he says, it’s well known that BP has a history of harassing and intimidating workers who speak up about safety concerns. BP says that’s not true and any employee “has the right to raise his or her hand and say stop the job without retaliation” if they feel unsafe.
Still, Kovac says he’s really angry. He’s angry that he’s lost friends on the slope, he’s angry friends have been injured on the slope, and he’s really angry 11 men died in the Gulf of Mexico when the Deepwater Horizon exploded. He told us too many fire and gas protection warning systems are not in compliance in Alaska and that worries him. BP’s Rinehart said “they are old systems and we are in the midst of a steady step by step process to upgrade these.”
For Kovac, that’s not good enough. He remembers when CEO Tony Hayward promised to make safety the soul of the company. He says that was “lip service, all show and no go.” That is why he’s sounding the alarm today.. hoping to avoid another BP catastrophe.. closer to home.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with