Those Welds Are Not Faulty!
Sometimes it seems that things happen just by chance, but I do not accept that. I am a great believer in Divine Providence—that God can and does guide those who seek to follow Him. Thus I believe that what I am about to relate was part of that Divine overruling.
Let me start at the beginning. I have said that as Chaplain on the Pipeline I was responsible for seven camps—all of the camps north of the Brooks Range from Galbraith Lake Camp to Prudhoe Bay. Each day I had a worship service in a different camp, seven days a week. The camps were approximately 35 to 40 miles from each other.
This meant that I traveled each day from camp to camp, and upon arriving I would check in with the registration desk. The lady at the desk would attempt to give me a room by myself, if possible, because of my position as Chaplain. I had to do a great deal of counseling, and clearly it was desirable to have a room where privacy was possible. On this particular day, I arrived at Franklins Bluff Camp, and the lady at the desk said, "Chaplain, I would very much like to give you a room by yourself, but we are just full up today and it is not possible."I said to the lady, "Thank you, I understand the situation. I do not mind at all sharing a room with someone else."
She handed me a room number on a slip of paper, as she normally did, and I thought very little about it as I walked down the corridor toward the dorm section. I walked into the 52-man dorm, down the hallway, and started to enter the room to which I had been assigned. There was an immediate protest from someone inside the room I was entering. A gentleman came to the door and said, "I'm sorry, but you can't stay here."I replied, "Sir, I'm very sorry. I didn't mean to intrude." At this point the man walked out of the room, and said "You'll have to go back to the desk and get reassigned."
I turned and started to walk away, and as I did he said, "Hey, by the way, who are you?" I answered, "I'm the Chaplain with Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, assigned to this camp." The gentleman smiled and said, "Well, Chaplain, I think you just might be interested in this, since you are a Reverend."
Then I asked him, "Well, why did you not want me in the room? After all, I don't want to intrude any place where I should not be."
The gentleman explained that he was appointed by Alyeska and the Federal government to examine the so-called "faulty welds." The claims that the welds in the big pipe were faulty had been spread all over the country by the news media—in the newspapers, on radio, and on television. It was put out for the whole world to know that the welds were bad. Every so many feet the pipe must be welded, and the Federal government had claimed that many of the welds were faulty, and that as a result there would be leaks when the oil was flowing.
Remember that the pipeline was both above and below ground. From Prudhoe Bay to Valdez was approximately 800 miles. The estimate was that approximately half of the pipeline in that distance was under the ground, and the other half was above the ground. To check the faulty welds, as the Federal government wanted, would mean the digging up of virtually hundreds of miles of the oil pipeline. Each of these welds was supposed to have been X-rayed prior to the pipe being laid in the ground.
Indeed, the problem was even more serious than simply going underground. Much of the pipe was actually underneath river beds. This, therefore, would have meant literally multiplied millions of dollars for the pipeline to have been dug up and X-rayed again. All the X-rays of the welds prior to the pipe being laid in the ground were undertaken by a firm that was subcontracted by Alyeska.
Another highly relevant fact was that these instructions to investigate the welds came up only some six to nine months before the projected date of oil flow. Obviously such an undertaking would cause great delay, and the costs would be enormous. The claim was that the company that was supposed to have X-rayed these welds had duplicated their film, and in so doing had cut back on their own costs, but had not done the job properly. It should be pointed out that when every joint of pipe was put together, the weld had to be X-rayed, and the company had films to prove that the X-rays had been carried out.
With that background, let me go back to the gentleman in the room who had protested my entrance. I still did not know the man's name, but now he smiled and said, "Reverend, come on in." As we walked across the dimly lit room, I noticed a light table on which were placed many strips of film. He explained that these were the films which represented the welds on each joint of the big pipe. This four-foot pipe that was to carry the crude oil from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez is the largest diameter pipe ever constructed for the carrying of crude oil.
As the gentleman pointed to the light table, I remarked, "Sir, I know nothing about X-raying the welds on a big pipe. Would you please tell me what all this is... and why it's so secret?" The man said, "Chaplain, haven't you heard about the faulty welds on the big pipe?" I said, "Yes, sir, anybody who listens to the radio or watches TV or reads the newspaper has heard about that."
He said, "Chaplain, my purpose in being here is to examine those welds." He continued, "Sir, all of this is classified."
I asked, "Do you mean that no one is supposed to see these films?"
He responded, "Chaplain, until this matter is settled, it could be very drastic—it's of national importance."
The gentleman was cordial by now, and he took considerable pains to explain what he was involved in. I asked him what on the films would show whether a weld was good or bad. He took a picture and pointed out a good weld, then put beside it a picture of a bad weld. The bad weld appeared to have bubbles internally.
I asked, "Do you mean to tell me that an X-ray can pick up a bubble inside a piece of metal?"
He replied, "Yes, because the type of X-ray that we undertake is done with radioactive material."
As I compared the pictures, I could see a dark crusty area, and to a normal layman, it appeared to have what looked like a bubble. On the picture, a good weld looked exactly like a good weld on the outside of a piece of metal would look. Remember, I'm talking about this as to how the thing would appear to a normal layman.
The gentleman told me that what had to be proven was whether or not each weld had actually been X-rayed. I realized as he talked to me that this was very important, and I spent a great deal of time going through the details with him as he explained various points to me.
It should be stressed that I was shown these X-rays without any coercion on my part. I did not so much as ask to see them, and he at no time asked me to keep secret what he showed me, or anything that he told me. He did allow me to share the room with him that night, and we talked at considerable length.
In the course of our lengthy conversation it became very clear that this gentleman believed that the whole investigation was unwarranted, that there was no truth to the claim that there were faulty welds, and that it was costing the oil companies millions of dollars for this investigation. He had already been through most of the films, and he had simply not come up with evidence to demonstrate the validity of the claims that had been made relating to the welds.
One other point of background is that this gentleman told me there had been an agreement between Alyeska Pipeline Service Company and the Federal. government to appoint him as examiner for these welds. It had been mutually agreed that his decisions would be accepted by both sides. Some Federal inspector, hidden in anonymity, had claimed that the welds were faulty, but here was the expert, mutually agreed to by both parties, insisting that the Federal inspector's claims were false. Sometimes in these matters of high policy, sacrifices are made, and there are even those who become scapegoats. The company that had been challenged as to its integrity in this matter of the welds was actually dismissed by Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, and paid off. Another company was appointed to continue the work, and thus a compromise was reached. This was reported as being a face-saving operation, but in fact the gentleman with whom I shared the room that night made it quite clear to me that basically the charges had no substance.
During the evening we talked at length about what was happening as this mammoth project was nearing its completion. It again appeared that somewhere underlying the total picture was an attempt by the government to postpone the flow of oil. I was left with the clear impression that government intervention was quite deliberate, in an attempt to lead the oil companies to financial chaos, even to their bankruptcy, and ultimately to the nationalization of the oil industry. We shall elaborate as we proceed in a later chapter.
After I left that man the next day, I kept thinking about the things I had seen and heard, and I attempted to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Time went by, and it was later proven by the actual flow of oil that the welds were not faulty. To my knowledge, there was no leak that developed in the pipe at any point as a result of a faulty weld. Nevertheless, the fact is that Alyeska Pipeline Service Company was instructed by the Federal government to dig up certain points of the pipe at extreme expense, to re-X-ray the welds,and to re-lay the pipe. Alyeska had no option but to obey, so they did it.
At this point I
was told by Mr. X that cost overruns were going to bring the total cost
of the pipeline to $12 billion dollars. Remember that originally the
pipeline was supposed to cost $600 million ... then $2 billion ... but
$10 billion dollars extra cost as an overrun? five times the original
estimate! Why? What is the underlying motivation? What absurd policy
is the Federal government pursuing? Why are you paying approximately
$1.50 a gallon at the gas pump now?
That became even clearer as those rich oil men from Saudi Arabia, as well as the bankers from the lower 48 states, began coming to Prudhoe Bay in large numbers.