Fairbanks suspect in pipeline case to be released

A federal magistrate decided Thursday that the Fairbanks man charged with lying to the FBI about the 1978 bombing of the trans-Alaska pipeline can be been released while he awaits trial.

At a detention hearing, Magistrate Judge Scott Oravec agreed to allow 61-year-old Phillip Martin Olson to be released to his home, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

Oravec ordered Olson to wear an electronic monitoring device. Olson remained jailed Friday morning as authorities awaited the arrival of an ankle monitor from Anchorage.

The bomb caused a major spill less than a year after the pipeline began moving oil 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. No one was previously charged in the incident.

A pilot on Feb. 15, 1978, spotted crude oil spurting from the pipeline about 6 miles east of Fairbanks. Pipeline officials estimated that 12,000 to 14,000 barrels of crude, or up to 588,000 gallons, had spilled.

According to the indictment, Olson in November told the FBI that he had placed the bomb. In interviews, according to the indictment, Olson acknowledged carrying out the bombing but falsely said another person also took part.

He was charged with three counts of making a false report. He also was charged with having 26 marijuana plants at his home.

Olson cannot be charged with the actual bombing because the statute of limitations has expired.

A conviction for making false statements could result in a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $350,000, according to federal prosecutors.

The pipeline also was breached on Oct. 4, 2001. Daniel Lewis was convicted of oil pollution, criminal mischief and other charges for firing a hunting rifle into the pipeline. The hole allowed 285,000 gallons of oil to leak near Livengood. Cleanup costs exceeded $13 million.

In June 2003, Lewis was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

05/30/2014 - 6:38am