The Lure of the Alaska Pipeline

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Oil companies ordered 3 million tons of pipe in 1969. This was before they had even
completed the drawings for the Alaska pipeline. The route from Prudhoe Bay at the top of the state, down the entire width of Alaska to the port of Valdez, where the water wasn’t frozen. “We cannot let this happen,” said the environomentalists, Earth Day demonstators and others who fought the pipeline and got a court order to stop it in 1977.

The native Americans got a billion dollars and four hundred thousand acres of land. They had some new weapons, some new standing, you are going to have to listen to new demands, to force studies of caribou, fish spawning, and detailed plans to limit pollution from construction. Legal challenge follow legal challenge. Years past, the pipeline was stuck in legal limbo.

Many in Alaska blamed outsiders, and environmentalists, as the bad guys. The Anchorage Daily News and the people of Alaska painted those in the lower 48 as being out of touch, and obstacles putting up lawsuits to stop the pipeline. The first plan called for burying the pipeline. But one man fought against this, saying that it would melt the permafrost. Three years of battle followed, and they needed to idenfify the permafrost…later 400 miles would need to be built above ground.

In 1973, Spiro Agnew cast the deciding vote moving the pipeline ahead…then that same year, the Arabs went to war with Israel, this helped the pipeline. Finally, nobody would challenge the project in court, but the result was strict environmental safeguards that ultimately made the pipeline better.