State proposes fine for safety violations at Ahtna-owned gas exploration well

Exploration well Tolsona No. 1, located about 11 miles West of Glennallen, Alaska (Photo by Elizabeth Harball. alaska’s Energy Desk – Anchorage)

The state is proposing a $380,000 fine for Alaska Native corporation Ahtna, Inc., for safety violations at a gas well near Glennallen.

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The Native corporation started drilling the exploration well last September, hoping to find natural gas to use as cheaper fuel for interior Alaska communities.

The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission stated the violations posed a “serious and significant risk to public health and the environment.”

In an order sent May 24, the commission charged that an oil and gas exploration company owned by Ahtna, Tolsona Oil and Gas Exploration, didn’t install proper safety equipment.

The commission also said the company “stonewalled” the agency’s attempts to address the issues.

Ahtna is challenging the fine. In a statement released yesterday, the corporation disputed parts of the commission’s account. The company said it took “immediate action” to comply with the state’s order, installing the required equipment this week.

Ahtna added the project has an “outstanding safety record,” but also stated that it lacks the “decades of experience that Alaska’s major oil and gas producers do.”