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U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resour : Murkowski Commemorates 40th Anniversary of Senate Vote on Trans-Alaska Pipeline System

07/17/2013 | 06:17pm US/Eastern

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today highlighted the 40th anniversary of the Senate approving construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline (TAPS) in Alaska.

"Four decades ago today, the Senate authorized an ambitious project to construct a pipeline across the entire state of Alaska to deliver North Slope crude oil to the Lower 48," Murkowski said. "It was a monumental decision that has shaped the trajectory of Alaska to this day."

On July 17, 1972, the Senate voted 49-49 to approve construction of the pipeline. The deadlock was broken by the Vice President. The House approved similar language on Aug. 2, 1973.  

Work on the pipeline began in April of 1974, and finished in June 1977. More than 70,000 individuals worked on the construction of the 800-mile pipeline, overcoming extreme cold, difficult terrain and problems caused by permafrost. The first oil flowed down the pipeline to the seaport of Valdez on June 20, 1977.

Construction of the pipeline spurred exploration on the North Slope, leading to discoveries of new fields, including Kuparuk, Endicott and Alpine. At its peak on Jan. 14, 1988, TAPS carried 2.1 million barrels of oil a day. To date, the pipeline has delivered more than 16 billion barrels of oil to U.S. consumers.

The amount of oil in the pipeline has been steadily decreasing over the years as oil fields on state-owned land are depleted. The pipeline currently carries about 550,000 barrels of oil a day.

"The decrease in oil flowing through TAPS is something all Americans should be concerned about. The loss of one-fifth of our country's oil output is no small matter," Murkowski said. "A vast amount of oil remains as yet untapped in Alaska, most of it trapped on federal lands. It's my hope that on this 40th anniversary of the pipeline, we'll start to pay greater attention to the looming problem of losing a major portion of our country's domestic oil production if more federal lands in Alaska aren't opened to responsible development."

Murkowski is Alaska's senior senator and the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

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