Carter reserves $275K for inspections of CUC oil pipeline

U.S. District Court for the NMI designated Judge David O. Carter granted Friday a joint request by the U.S. government and the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. to reserve $275,000 for inspections of the CUC oil pipeline.

The $275,000 shall come from CUC’s Technical Manager for Oil fund and will be placed in a separate CUC account to be used for the in-line inspection of the pipeline.

In-line inspection, also called intelligent or “smart pigging,” refers to an assessment of a pipeline from the interior of the pipe using an inspection tool.

The old pipeline was an aboveground pipe that received fuel from the Mobil Oil facility at the port on Saipan and pumped it to Power Plants 1 and 2 in Lower Base.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had stated that, unless the old pipeline is repaired or replaced, it poses a threat to the nearby ocean.

An Environmental and Engineering Management Company then constructed a new fuel pipeline at the same location. It became operational in 2016.

In their joint stipulation, U.S. Department of Justice Environmental Enforcement Section senior attorney Bradley O’Brien and CNMI deputy attorney general Lillian Tenorio said that a “smart pig” in-line inspection was conducted in 2018, to ensure that the new pipe meets industry standards and the Stipulated Order No. 2 requirements.

SO2 refers to court-mandated projects that focus on oil issues and also apply to oil spills and the remediation of the contaminated power plants.

O’Brien and Tenorio said the EEMC and the parties agree that the pipeline should be regularly inspected in the future. The next scheduled inspection is in 2023.

CUC agrees to the 2023 in-line inspection “smart pig” analysis and that the results will be reviewed by a third party.

CUC agrees that the $275,000 set aside for this inspection cannot be used for other purposes without the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s approval.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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