Lindsey Williams – The Energy Non-Crisis – Chapter 10
Chapter 10: One Law for the Rich, Another for the Poor
We’ve talked about the two-million dollar falcon’s nest, and the $10,000 outhouses. There were many other similar incidents—they can be multiplied, and taken together, they involved a huge sum of money.
Another method to add to the price of the pipeline, and again to the price that you the individual will pay at the gas pump, was the almost incredible use of fines. On one occasion a vehicle with sightseers on board ran off the road to let a truck go by. No damage was done —there was nothing off the road, just the tundra. Remember that it would take an ax to break through that tundra. Nevertheless, there was a fine of $10,000 levied because that vehicle ran off the road. Of course, it was not the sightseers that got fined, but the ARCO company.
People living in the lower 48 will find it hard to believe that such practices continued, but they surely did. Another case was where a pickup truck drove into the river to turn around. A security guard had locked the gate, and so this was the way that the driver solved his own problem. Again the ARCO company got fined $10,000 for not making an adequate turn around. They hurt nothing driving their vehicle into the river, and it is really impossible to figure out why they should have been fined—but fined they were.
The amounts of these fines were announced in the paper very often, and there would be a small write-up. It didn’t make big news, for the policy seemed to be to keep these matters in low key. It is ultimately the poor guy who buys gas for his automobile that pays those fines of $10,000 and more—for the most trivial offenses against the huge number of regulations to which the oil companies were subjected.
Not only were there very heavy fines, but also they dragged the work out. One section of road was supposed to be a five week project, but because of government meddling, it was about 3 months before it was finished. The government tinkered with the administration, fined the company, and stopped them in all sorts of ways. They told them what they could and could not do, when they could work and when they could not. At one time there were 22 government monitors working on that one section of road. They came from such departments as the Department of the Interior, the Department of Fisheries and Game, and the U.S. Geographic Coastal Survey. Most of them were Federal workers, but some were State workers also. Those 22 workers were running around surveying the same stretch of road at the same time, day after day. While that stretch of road was being built, some 18 fines were levied—in a three month period. Every one of those fines was for at least $10,000.
The company that had the contract for that stretch of road ran over their estimated budget by about $5,000,000. The cost overrun almost broke them, and the ARCO company had to come back and reimburse them to keep them from going bankrupt.
There was no doubt that by the strict enforcement of often ridiculous and excessive regulations, the attempt was being made to bankrupt all the oil companies. Often regulations were changed; a good example of that was when the rules for going on the tundra were altered. It used to be that you could not go on the tundra unless there had been 30 days of consecutive freeze and a specified amount of snow. Then the authorities would issue a permit, and you could go anywhere you liked on the tundra—after all, you cannot hurt it. Then the regulations were changed to make it so that you could not go on the tundra for any reason without a permit. Anytime you wanted to go on the tundra you had to have a specific permit registered with the State—and it would take weeks to get one. Of course, people had to be paid to process those permits.
This new regulation was considered by many people to be absurd, for there were all too many occasions that it was necessary to go on the tundra in the normal course of events—to check out a marker, or to repair a light pole, or for many other legitimate reasons.
The tundra is not easily scored or damaged. You could drive all over it right through the winter and never see where you had driven. You need an ax to break it up, yet the authorities made it essential to get these permits. They were State people because the land is State-owned, not owned by the Federal government.
The same controls extended even to the dumps associated with the camps. One oil company executive told me that there were three State ecologists monitoring the dump where he worked. They lived at Attwood, and there were three of them employed, with no other work than the monitoring of that dump. At that place there is the only certified landfill in the North Slope!
One day these three monitors came to the dump, and someone had dumped some spoiled weiner packs—hot dogs—and of course hot dogs are supposed to be buried. On this occasion for some reason the garbage man had mixed up one of his bags and got the whole bag of spoiled hot dogs and dumped them on the dump.
These three people found the hot dogs, and they fined the company $10,000 for throwing hot dogs away. Their argument was that food should not be thrown on the dump because it would attract bears. The fact was that this was a legitimate mistake, for the company operated its incinerator and a man was paid to burn all that stuff. He just did not get it done that particular day, and so the company was fined $10,000.
The same company executive, who indignantly told me about the hot dogs, also pointed out that it was not permitted to salvage anything from the dumps. Often it would cost large sums of money to freight iron, copper, and brass to the site, but it was then buried at the dump.
Nothing could be moved out, even if it was urgently required, e.g., for repair purposes.
When the fines were levied, there was little the offending parties could do about it. The fines were levied, and the amounts were learned 2 or 3 months after the incident.
There is an old saying, “One rule for the rich and another for the poor.” It certainly was true that there was one way to apply these regulations to the employees of the oil companies and another way when it came to the State employees. We’ve just said that the company was fined for allowing a bag of hot dogs to accidentally be thrown on the dump because it might attract the bears. Yet some of their own employees did worse things with food lying around, and it did, in fact, attract bears. Then those employees shot the bears, and nothing was done! No action was taken against them … not even a fine!
The oil company people were not allowed to participate in hunting or fishing: they were fired if they got caught. A different set of rules applied to the State employees.
Here is another example—ARCO transferred to the State of Alaska the Dead Horse airstrip and camp. The camp itself was sold, but the airstrip was not, it being a gift. The company had put millions of dollars into that airstrip, and it was in fact the finest airstrip in the State. Those who know the facts would agree with that assessment, and would also agree that the airstrip has not been maintained properly since then.
The State authorities sent a tower man to live up there, and he was allowed to keep his wife there. The radio man maintained the radio and there was a mechanic to maintain the equipment. Maybe there were others also—they certainly had a Fisheries and Game man there.
A team of people came to that airstrip, and they would just throw the garbage out their back doors, which was something the oil company employees were not allowed to do. They had to incinerate all their rubbish at all times. So it was that the bears got to eating on the back porch where these State officials would throw their garbage, and then the officials themselves killed the bears and flayed their hides off.
That was in Prudhoe Bay, and it is widely known that they did what I am saying. The company’s environmentalist wrote to the State authorities about it, but to no avail. Those people killed every bear in Prudhoe Bay: there’s not a bear to be seen in the oil fields there now. These “outsiders” brought their guns in, shot them, tagged them, and hauled them out. By “tagging” we mean that they were supposedly legally shot, a hunting fee having been paid. Even that was something that was not legal for the oil company employees to do. Those bears were actually pets of the oil field, and they were ruthlessly shot by these employees of the State. There were about 7 bears that lived more or less as pets around the oil fields —7 Plains Grizzly bears, these being a rare breed Grizzly bear. They are a little smaller than the Kodiak Grizzly, with bigger heads and wider. They grow to about 9 or 10 feet, instead of 11 feet which is common with the Kodiak bears.
Bears were commonly seen around the camp. They would go back into the mountains and hide there in the winter months, but they would come down every summer and live in the fields around Prudhoe Bay—until the State people killed them. There was one mother bear with her three cubs living around one of the camps. Nobody had any problem with her-she was regarded as a pet. Another mother and her cub did cause some trouble, and they were put in a helicopter and carried about 150 miles away and unloaded, but they were back in their original camp area two days later. Would you believe it, the company actually got fined for taking that bear and her cub in the helicopter and removing them! Yet State employees killed bears and no action was taken against them.
Things were very different with these State people. They actually killed the cubs, as well as the adult bears, and this was common knowledge. Though the oil company environmentalists reported it, even getting one of the security guards as a witness, no action was ever taken on this entire matter.
The State people concerned did not have to stay long in the area. The tower man could only stay there one year, but then he could go somewhere else, such as Anchorage, Fairbanks, or even to the State of Hawaii.
As we stated above, there is a saying, “There is one law for the rich and another for the poor.” At Prudhoe it was quite obvious that there was one law for the oil companies and another for the State.