Monday, July 12, 2010

Alyeska CEO Hostler, BP appointee, retiring early under fire

JUNEAU, Alaska - Kevin Hostler, a former BP executive, is retiring in September as head of the Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., which runs the trans-Alaska pipeline.
Hostler's decision comes as two congressional subcommittees investigate Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.'s maintenance and safety records, and amid allegations that employees who expressed safety concerns were ignored or even punished.
Hostler had earlier announced plans to retire from Alyeska by the end of the year but didn't want recent reports about the company to be a distraction, company spokeswoman Michelle Egan said.
His retirement will be effective Sept. 30.
A replacement wasn't immediately named. The pipeline system owners' committee will choose his successor.
BP Pipelines (Alaska) is the largest single owner of the 800-mile TAPS line that carries oil from Alaska's North Slope to Valdez, where tankers pick it up for shipment to refineries in the lower 48. The other pipeline owners include ConocoPhillips Transportation Alaska Inc., ExxonMobil Pipeline Co., Unocal Pipeline Co. Inc. and Koch Alaska Pipeline Co. LLC. The line is independent of BP.
Recent questions have been raised stemming from an internal report that found "widespread" employee dissatisfaction with the pipeline's operation and raised serious concerns with the management culture at Alyeska, U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak said.
Stupak, a Michigan Democrat, sits on the House Energy and Commerce committee. He said staff from his Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations met with Hostler recently to express concerns.
"Mr. Hostler's early retirement does not come as a surprise and I wish him the best in his retirement," Stupak said.
He said he expects that the group that will choose Hostler's replacement will find someone with "the character and management style to move the company forward."
Dan Lawn, a former Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation employee, has documented years of safety complaints targeted at BP and Alyeska, many of which were not corrected. In addition, he said, at least one senior BP official who came up with a list of concerns was fired a week later.
The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has filed eight enforcement actions against Alyeska over conduct dating to 2004, alleging safety, maintenance and procedural violations, and is seeking more than $1 million in fines. The company is contesting most of the actions.
Richard Fineberg, a senior advisor on oil and gas policy to the Alaska governor in the 1980s and author of several reports on pipeline operations, said "I can also tell you that the repressive atmosphere (inside Alyeska) is as bad as anything I've seen."

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