From Alyeska: Remembering Stan Stephens: Never an adversary, always an advocate

Tom Barrett, President of Alyeska Pipeline Service Company
Tom Barrett

President of Alyeska Pipeline Service Company

Alaska lost a true champion in September with the passing of Stan Stephens of Valdez, a man whose passion for protecting Prince William Sound translated to every aspect of his life, a man I was fortunate to know and call a friend. Stan and I shared a relationship dating back many years, long before I became president of Alyeska Pipeline Service Company in 2011. His passing has prompted reflection across the state about his legacy and character. I want to share my thoughts on the life he led, and the legacy of stewardship and integrity he leaves in his wake.

Stan was a practical man and a sailor through and through, a straight-talker and storyteller whose character was defined by strength, patience and practicality. I viewed Stan as an advocate — never an adversary. Together, we believed positive and practical solutions could be reached. Our rapport dates back to my days as commander of the United States Coast Guard for Alaska, when Stan weighed in on environmental and safety issues. His prowess, acumen and knowledge reflected rich understanding of the unique ecosystem of Prince William Sound, and revealed his innate energy around protecting its waterways and shorelines.

Our paths also crossed with the formation of the council, an organization whose work is synonymous with Stan himself. He helped create the group and remained devoted for decades, active until he retired from its board of directors in 2012.

Stan had a sweeping impact on our industry. He dedicated thousands of hours to the council. A Legislative citation issued in 1995 called him a shining example of how “citizens can constructively influence decisions that affect their lives and communities.” Stan’s passion, hard work, and commitment exemplified how a single person can have a profound impact. In his steady and even way, Stan campaigned for vapor recovery systems for tanker loading berths and championed air quality improvements. He advocated for redundant systems to improve safety on the Terminal, and was a staunch supporter of improvements to oil spill prevention and response readiness.

He shared his connection to the Sound with thousands of strangers, shuttling visitors to some of the Sound’s most pristine, special places. He understood that Valdez’s distinction as the terminus for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System helped make the town successful, and demanded that a strong level of responsibility and care accompany that success. From our earliest to our final conversations — talks that took place across the breakfast table at the Totem Inn in Valdez, on decks of boats, and at his hospital bedside — Stan focused on protecting Prince William Sound. He believed in the compatibility of the missions of the council and Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, and in the importance of always continuing to improve the relationship between the two.

Stan kept a weather eye on the horizon. He mentored others, in particular a new generation of boat captains and citizen leaders. This exemplified his leadership — a belief that a captain is only as good as his crew. In our final meeting, just days before he died, Stan expressed high confidence in Amanda Bauer, whom he mentored closely and who is now president of the council’s board of directors, carrying on his legacy.

What I will remember most about our last visit in his office at the Valdez Boat Harbor, the port spread out behind it, the mountains rising up, is that we were reflective together, like sailors standing at the rail on a calm ocean.
Thank you for everything, Stan. Alaska will miss you.

  • This column also appeared in the Alaska Dispatch in September.

Alyeska intern impressed by safe work environment

Every summer Alyeska Pipeline Service Company offers internships to college students around Alaska. This year, we asked them to share their thoughts about their time with Alyeska. Here’s an interview with Kyle Tee, who interned with the Facility Engineering team on the Valdez Marine Terminal.

Kyle Tee
Kyle Tee

Was this your first internship on TAPS?
This is my second Internship with Alyeska. My first Internship was in Anchorage in Project Engineering.

What were your expectations for this internship when you first started?
My expectation for this internship was to learn more information about Valdez and what type of work is involved here. Accepting this internship in Valdez I knew that I would be seeing more of the pipeline and being away from a cubical a little bit more than if I was in Anchorage and I was excited for that.

What was the most interesting or educational project you worked on and why?
The most interesting project I worked on is a design of a snow shelter to access a valve. The reason why it is so interesting is because the space to place a snow shelter is very limited. There is only about 28 inches between the building and a tank and during the winter snow is falling off of the structures and building up between them. So far the design is incomplete but it has been an enjoyable experience with it.

Who is someone who really mentored you, and how did they do that?
Todd Carsten: he gave, helped and guided me on all of the projects I worked on this summer. When we go out into the field I tend to be very observant and ask a lot of questions and Todd has done an outstanding job in providing me with answers to my questions.

Tell us about one of your favorite experiences you had during the internship.
My favorite experience would be the morning that Carol and Jeff Simmons given me the opportunity to kayak to work. It was terribly early in the morning but the whole scenery was beautiful. We didn’t encounter any wildlife of any sort but it was an awesome way start off the day.

Describe what you’ve learned about the TAPS culture.
From this internship I have a greater understanding of the five cultural attributes than I had last summer. The attribute that I most identified with is Making Sound Decision. Ever since I started to work in the Valdez Terminal I have heightened my safety awareness to ensure that I am making sound decision every day when I am out in the field and everything I do.

Now that you’ve spent many weeks working on TAPS, what’s your impression of Alyeska, TAPS, or its people?
My last impression I will have of Alyeska’s will be the extraordinary safety environment that I was given the opportunity to work in this summer.

Traveling fair brings health and wellness services to Prince William Sound communities

Valdez Communications Manager
Alyeska Pipeline Service Company

On Sunday, April 28, I stood on the deck of the tug/barge combo Krystal Sea/Cordova Provider for the Prince William Sound community of Tatitlek. The sun was shining, the winds calm, and I was surrounded by an enthusiastic group of health and wellness care providers. As we motored out of Port Valdez, everyone was outside taking pictures and laughing; a good start to an important event.

For the last 13 years, Alyeska has sponsored and supported the Prince William Sound Traveling Health and Safety Fair. For eight days, the Krystal Sea brings vital health and wellness services to communities of Cordova, Whittier, Chenega Bay, Tatitlek and Valdez. Our theme this year was “Healing our whole selves,” and the trip focused on health and well-being in all aspects of life, from blood pressure to nutrition, exercise, boating safety, music and meditation.

Participants gave a thumbs-up to this spring’s Prince William Sound Traveling Health and Safety Fair. Photo courtesy of Alyeska Pipeline Service Company.
Participants gave a thumbs-up to this spring’s Prince William Sound Traveling Health and Safety Fair. Photo courtesy of Alyeska Pipeline Service Company.

There was a 6:15 a.m. provider meeting each morning to go over the day’s schedule and discuss any safety concerns. Then medical professionals set up screening equipment in the schools so that community members could drop by to track their blood pressure, cholesterol levels and other important health information. This year, the group screened over 100 community members- a great success!

We also brought along mobile mammogram unit. The “Mammo Van” is supplied by long-time partner the Breast Cancer Detection Center of Fairbanks. For women in these small rural communities, getting their annual mammogram means an expensive trip to Anchorage. This year, we were able to save 17 women that cost.

Providers headed into classrooms in Tatitlek, Chenega and Whittier to talk to students about drugs and alcohol, suicide, nutrition and other issues that are brought up by teachers beforehand. These are not easy subjects to discuss, and the volunteers had to be focused and prepared to confront difficult problems that bubble up in such small communities. I was so impressed with the grace, humor and compassion that the care providers wield in these classroom sessions.

Beyond the scheduled activities -there were easily over 50 of them- there were the smaller, quieter moments in the villages that I will remember most: teaching the two preschoolers in Tatitlek why some chords sound “scary” and some “happy,” watching the newly-formed Whittier dance team perform Maroon 5’s “Moves like Jagger”, and holding multiple babies in Chenega so their moms could eat or craft with both hands. When the tug returned Valdez, the weather had turned from spring back to winter, but the snow couldn’t dampen my mood. I was energized and proud that Alyeska sponsors such a special program, and that I have the privilege to tag along.

A big thanks to our partners at Providence Medical Center, Bering Marine, Chugachmiut, Cordova Family Resource Center, Breast Cancer Detection Center, Advocates for Victims of Violence and the State of Alaska.


Trans Alaska pipeline important to Alaska’s economy

From Alyeska Pipeline


A central topic of this year’s Legislative session in Juneau is what to do about declining throughput in the Trans Alaska Pipeline System. This ongoing problem drives much of our daily work at Alyeska Pipeline Service Company. We all want the pipeline to safely transport Alaskan crude oil long into the future. That’s the best outcome for both our owner companies and for Alaska. From our pump stations, to our Valdez Marine Terminal, to our urban offices in Anchorage and Fairbanks, to the Capitol in Juneau, there is a shared understanding among Alaskans that bringing on more oil production from new and legacy fields is the best way to extend the life of the pipeline, maintain the health of the Alaska economy and sustain domestic crude oil supply.

The challenges from declining throughput confront us today. Until new production is on line, Alyeska will continue to apply our professional expertise and innovation to address the pipeline’s unique challenges, as we have for decades. We will research the smart paths forward and implement effective solutions.

Because the pipeline is so critical for all Alaskans, we all have a role to play toward its successful future. For the people of Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, that means continued commitment to safe operations, environmental stewardship, reliability and efficiency. For Alaskans, it means understanding our challenges and the importance of the pipeline to our state. For our elected officials, it means enacting laws that will help drive an increase in production and reinforce the prosperity of Alaska. At Alyeska, we will continue to do our job every day.

We look to our fellow Alaskans to help us out by supporting steps needed to stop the decline in the line.

  • Thomas Barrett is president of the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company.