Rita Heidkamp / TAPS Shutdown Coordinator
Pete Nagel / Land Manager
Need a map of specific segment of TAPS? Ask Peter "Pete" Nagel. He can likely offer up the appropriate record and probably provide some historical information from memory. After 27 years as Alyeska's Land Manager, many believe he knows every mile of the TAPS right-of-way as well as, or better than, anyone.
Looking for a roadmap to professional success? Follow Pete's path. He's the 2019 Atigun Award President's Choice for Professional of the Year. The honor recognizes a career of smart and thorough work; his availability and reliability for coworkers, agencies, the public and anyone who interacts with the TAPS right-of-way; and a steady demeanor balanced by wit.
"Pete Nagel is our greatest resource," wrote Jason Green, ROW Maintenance at PS4. "To quantify Pete’s achievements would be impossible, as he is the man behind the scenes of so many of our accomplishments on TAPS for the last 27 years. … Pete works all 800 miles of pipeline, Terminal and right-of-way with the highest level of professionalism that can be found."
Of the Atigun Award, Pete said, "When I got this news, I saw this parade of faces of people I work with. All the talent, all the dedication of the people here. It’s gratifying and humbling."
As for his reputation of being the TAPS right-of-way wiz?
"People think I know it better than I do know it," he said, smiling. "I have been to every part of the right-of-way by helicopter or ground, and I know where more than a few boundary markers are situated. And an affinity with maps helps me visualize many areas together with recollections of past visits. Ground truth always needs refreshing though, and I never hesitate to throw out a request for current conditions to those in the field."
People come to Pete with questions – lots of questions – and he is known for having answers. Topics include, but are not limited to, land ownership and contact information; permits and regulations, rents due and appraisals; joint ROW use and letters of non-objection; wetlands and navigable waters, culturally sensitive areas and boundaries; drills and drones; land use stipulations; and contacts and protocols for public agencies such as ADOTPF, NSB, USDOD and EVOSTC.
People also come to Pete with requests – lots of requests – and he is known for always assisting. Jason Green summed up Pete's partnership, writing, "Replacing a mainline valve, restoring a fish stream, accessing areas beyond the right of way, crushing aggregate in an operations material site … I could go on and on. You need Pete to help execute that task."
And then there's Pete's own task list that's practically as long and complex as the pipeline: acquiring the rights and permits needed to operate and maintain TAPS while also managing the use of land along its route.
"There are 400 million acres in Alaska – why does everyone have to crowd along the pipeline?" he joked.
Pete's keys to organization and right-of-way rigor? "I compartmentalize. Acquisition always wins. Then management, which is usually accommodating people who aren't TAPS. … We are good neighbors – that’s our culture. I am an advocate for TAPS over and over, and there are times when it is necessary to advocate for private property owners and others who have rights, albeit limited, in the right-of-way. … Sometimes I call it finding the 'unhappy medium' – the sweet spot where everyone is equally stressed, or better, has an equal share in the peace."
What puts Pete at peace? Helping others succeed in their work. Benefiting his family. Working with TAPS maps and expanding his geographic knowledge of Alaska.
In fact, maps are part of many of Pete's pursuits, from work to play. They've always been there, and he's always been intrigued by them.
"Perhaps it was that major in Classical Studies – maps of the ancient archipelagos and grand traverses must have caught my fancy," said the Yale grad. "And, as our children grew, we'd pull out the maps every trip, whether fishing near home or driving to Glennallen."
Following college, he was leaning toward a career in law, but a craving for first-hand experience in land and natural resource management led him north.
"Alaska was, and is, very dynamic," he said.
After stints hanging sheetrock for the U.S. Forest Service and commercial fishing, his career transitioned, and he quickly found himself working amid some of Alaska’s largest legal landmarks for land and natural resources.
For 10 years, he helped implement the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Then he was in the Chugach Alaska Corporation's Land Department when the Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef in the heart of the region.
Years later, his initial assignment to manage gravel for Alyeska was seemingly simple and short-lived. He was swiftly brought into the effort to wrap up the 9-mile Atigun reroute and corral permits needed for additional buildout of the company’s spill response capabilities.
"We were building roads, reopening roads, building boat ramps, clearing first response containment sites," he said. "Chuck Strub was in charge and needed 1,400 permits. It was all hands on deck."
And suddenly, his hands were on original TAPS maps. Ever since, he's continued learning about, and sharing his knowledge of, every mile of TAPS and the land it travels.
"Almost daily, I’m researching in the same files created by the agents who acquired the rights-of-way to build and operate TAPS," he said. "They started in 1969, and their files, still at my fingertips, continue to provide vital answers to deal with current challenges."
After 27 years at Alyeska, Pete credits his longevity to, "my wife, Mary, the inspiration from my children and coworkers, old and young, and the Alyeska culture. This culture is a precious thing, and I am grateful to my first boss here, Dennis Prendeville, for showing me the way."
Pete has played roles in countless projects and milestones, and through it all, he proudly notes, "We've never been to court over joint use of the right-of-way; that's good."
But for decades, one dotted line haunted him. He explained: "In 2015, we got the final signature which had been missing since 1975 when the first agreement was signed to cross a certain parcel of private land. It was the last piece in the bona fide TAPS right-of-way. The landowner team moved slowly, and there was potential for litigation, eminent domain and eviction. But Alyeska stayed responsive, respectful. When I got the call that the signature was delivered, I let out this 'Whoop!' from my desk, which doesn’t happen often. People came running."
And they keep running to him. And calling him. And emailing him. For his help, his humor, his calm guidance, and his knowledge of that 800-mile right-of-way.
"I've been in some far-away places in Alaska, and working in the slice of geography that TAPS occupies is a privilege," he said. "It's a wonderful challenge, and if I can help the company in its mission, I am lucky."
Cindy Keuler / Environment Program Coordinator
When three Alyeska Environment team members submitted an Atigun Award nomination about colleague Cindy Keuler, they didn’t simply provide a laundry list of adjectives. They described Cindy and her work with academic rigor, referencing articles like, "In Search of Excellence," "Some characteristics of high-reliability organizations," and "The Characteristics of High Performance Organizations."
It was a thoughtful approach, and a successful one, too: Cindy is receiving a 2019 Atigun Award for Integrity. But you don't need to cite published journal articles to find phrases of praise for Cindy. Anyone who works with her can quickly sum her work up in simpler, yet equally powerful, terms. Patience and professionalism. Diligence and dependability. Leading by example. And most of all, integrity.
"She is one who makes good on promises and commitments and follows company ethical standards to the letter," the group wrote. "And perhaps the most notable of all of Cindy's qualities is the almost unattainable standard to which she holds herself."
Cindy said there's simply no other way to do things. Her Environment team's work, Alyeska's reputation, the safety of pipeline people and Alaska's environment, and the operations of TAPS – not to mention her own work and reputation – are just too important.
"Reputation and integrity go hand in hand. … Integrity at Alyeska – we do the right thing no matter if it's not the most well-received thing," she said. "Take responsibility, own it, move on. This company stands for something. Our mission statement isn't just words on a dry erase board."
She added, "And I was raised with certain values – integrity, doing the right thing. I'm not 100 percent at it, but it is something I strive for."
When asked how her belief system and work ethic became something she lived and breathed, Cindy noted the example of family. Both of Cindy's parents set high standards for her and her siblings; top among them were honesty and integrity. She wishes her mom was alive to celebrate this recognition with her. "I think she would be proud," Cindy said.
While perfection is elusive, the importance, sensitivity, visibility and pressure of Cindy's work reflects, and even demands, the highest standards.
Jim Lawlor, Environment Coordinator Supervisor, wrote, "No single position at Alyeska has more routine contact with regulatory agencies than Cindy, who serves as the spill reporting coordinator for Alyeska."
While her Environment Program Coordinator role covers a wide range of task bullets that support and elevate her teammates, of highest importance is her administration of Alyeska's Spill Compliance Reporting System and the Environment Team's Environmental Management System.
"The primary focus of my job is spill reporting, internally and externally – if there's a drop of product to water we have to report it, these are the standards we are held to by the Grant and Lease and we live up to them," she said. "We've had some unfortunate events over the years, but we learned from them, don't repeat them, and try our best to prevent them. If you look at API's spill reporting from pipelines across the country you will see that Alyeska's is one of the best in the country. That alone says we are doing things right on TAPS."
Cindy arrived at Alyeska in 2000 after 17 years of working a variety of positions on the North Slope – from office administration to accounting manager to scheduler. She made the most of that time, having fun with fellow workers and gaining insights on Alaska's oil and gas industry and TAPS.
"For some people on the Slope, it would get humdrum, they'd complain and I'd think, 'You spend half your life up here, if you don't want to do it, leave,'" she said. "One day, I found myself feeling the same way."
So she quit, gave herself a six-month break, then dove back into the working world, landing at Alyeska in a pivotal role on a massive project: coordinator on the Right of Way Renewal Project team, charged with helping to write the Environmental Impact Statement. She made a good impression and stuck around, landing in Environment.
"It was a natural fit"” she said.
And after nearly 20 years at Alyeska, does she ever get that humdrum sensation?
"I have yet to feel that way here," she said, smiling. "I love the work and my team. The work that we do makes a difference and I am very proud of that. They're some of the most dedicated and best people I've have ever worked with and I feel very fortunate to be a part of this team and Alyeska. I appreciate what this company does for me, for our communities and our state."
Of receiving the Atigun recognition, Cindy said, "I'm very surprised; it's really cool and a little uncomfortable because I'm not used to being in the spotlight. And the most touching for me is who nominated me: three people from my team who I have absolute respect for. Truly, all of it comes back to the Environment team. I'm simply trying to emulate the people from my team."
Melody Shangin / Electrical Engineer
Meet Alyeska's rockstar electrical engineer Melody Shangin. NBC News Learn recently spotlighted Melody and her work to inspire America's -- and Alaska's -- future engineers! Visit www.nbclearn.com/engineering/cuecard/117615 to hear her story and tour TAPS with her.
Janine Boyette / Response & Remediation SME
Reva Paulsen / Assistant Chief of Staff
Dave Heimke / Director of Engineering
Betsy Haines / Vice President, Risk & Technical Support Division
Melanie Myles / Director of Oil Movements
Don Duke / Maintenance technician, North Pole Metering Station
For Don Duke, 40-plus years of working on TAPS feels like a blur.
"I sit back now and realize how fast the past 40-plus years have gone," said Duke, a maintenance technician at North Pole Metering Station. "At one time, I was the youngest technician at Pump Station 8. Now, I certainly am not the oldest on TAPS, but I'm definitely well-seasoned."
He's held numerous positions in many places and worked alongside hundreds of pipeline people, from those who started oil moving down TAPS to those handling the demands of 2.1 million barrels a day to lifelong mentors, new friends and even his son, Donny. He's been part of countless TAPS milestones and notable moments, from "standing 20 yards away from the pump building at Pump Station 8 when it exploded on July 8, 1977" to representing Alyeska at the Smithsonian Institute's opening of a TAPS exhibit in Washington, D.C., in 1997.
In this, his 41st year at Alyeska, Duke is being recognized with the 2017 Atigun Award for Lifetime Achievement, an honor that the humble man admits is special.
Most days over those many years, Duke says he has learned something new, faced invigorating challenges, worked with someone smart and interesting, and felt pride in being a part of Alyeska, the Alaska-based company that operates TAPS. He's spent the majority of his adult life working for the organization.
Earlier this year, Duke was asked how he preferred to have his name printed on the Atigun Award.
"After a little thought, my response was 'Just another Alyeska employee striving to do the right thing every day,'" he said. "That is truly how I feel. I am afforded this award only because of the many people who have supported my job in many capacities over the years, and to that I respectfully say, 'Thank you.'"
He added, "And I accept this especially on behalf of all the field employees who operate and maintain TAPS 24 hours a day, every day."
While others appreciate Duke's modesty – it's an omnipresent trait – they also say they can't think of anyone more worthy of this recognition.
His supervisor, Carol Adamczak of the Fairbanks Shops Team, nominated Duke for the award and wrote, "Don Duke is the single best example of a TAPS employee that goes the extra mile. Don is the consummate example of integrity … is known for his thoroughness and attention to detail. … (He) sets his standards high and leads by example.”
Another nominator, Oil Measurements Manager Scott Iverslie, added, "Don is an excellent example of an individual with high personal standards who is self-motivated and exhibits the ideal behaviors of Alyeska Pipeline's Cultural Attributes."
Duke's son and coworker, Donny, added, "He has truly epitomized what it means to be an exemplary TAPS employee. He has been a shining example of ownership, integrity, selflessness and humility on the job, and in every other facet of his life."
Duke's sense of ownership in his work, company and pipeline runs deep. He literally grew up with TAPS and Alyeska. His military family moved to Alaska in 1973. He graduated from Eielson High School three years later. After a summer stint working as a track laborer on the Alaska Railroad in '76, he hired on with Alyeska, a few months before pipeline startup.
Duke first served as a mail handler at the pipeline's busy Ft. Wainwright office, then in warehouseman positions in Fairbanks and at PS8. He advanced to an operations technician position at PS8 and then, in June 1993, moved to North Pole Metering (NPM) Station. He's been there ever since.
"From janitor to manager," he joked of his responsibilities at NPM. In reality, his week-on shifts are filled with reviewing metering data, ensuring the facility's planned and unplanned maintenance is on track, quality bank sampling/maintenance, checking meter performance and coordinating with a nearby refinery, along with countless onsite projects.
"You can make your day what you want," he said, "but there is never a lack of something to do."
He added that there's also the occasional surprise. Some of which, he joked, have "caused early gray hair."
"Part of the job is knowing that you can be called on any time day or night to troubleshoot a problem," he said. "Unless you have been in that position a few times it is hard to explain. Generally most problems can be resolved and then there is a sense of pride that comes with doing what we’re paid to do."
Sure, there are many business-as-usual days, but Duke has also been in the middle of many extraordinary moments. TAPS startup in June 1977. Operating a vac truck all night following the Steele Creek sabotage spill in 1978. Being part of what he calls "the best crew ever on the pipeline" at PS8 in the late '80s when more than 2 million barrels a day raced down the line while the station’s topping unit produced more than 3600 BPD of turbine fuel. Commissioning the new NPM facility to accommodate refiners in 1998. Accepting Alyeska's sixth-consecutive World's Most Ethical Company Award honor in New York City earlier this year.
"Over the long haul, we will all have good days and bad, but Alyeska has been a great place to work," he said. "I have grown up and matured around Alyeska but Alyeska has also grown up and matured around me."
Despite his years of different positions and demands, as well as the evolution of TAPS, Alyeska and the company’s culture, Duke is known by many as a model of consistency, patience, responsibility and safety. Adamczak added that he has "a stellar safety record and is a great influence on anyone who works with him."
While Duke's commitment to his work is evident, he said his deepest passions are his faith and family. He married his high school sweetheart, Dee Dee, in 1981. They had two sons, Donny and Dustin, both college grads. And in April, Duke became a grandpa. He beamed while carrying and introducing his infant granddaughter, Everly Monroe Duke, to coworkers and friends during June's TAPS 40th anniversary event in Fox.
"My father's dedication to Alyeska is surpassed only by his dedication to his faith and family," said Donny.
Duke said he's extremely proud of his sons and noted how special it has been to have Donny work on TAPS. After a college career studying biology and chemistry, Donny spent years working at the Flint Hills Refinery in North Pole, just down the line from his dad. When Flint Hills shut down, he landed a lab technician job for Alyeska in Valdez, where he works today.
"There has been no greater honor in my life than to follow in his footsteps and have the privilege to call him my dad," Donny said. "He is an impossible act to follow. If I can merely be half the technician, and father, that my dad has been, I will consider my personal and professional life to be an overwhelming success."
A lifetime of faith, family and friends in Alaska. Forty-plus years of TAPS work, memories, experiences and connections. For Duke, the key to successful longevity is hard work, humility and humor, working in the present with a view to the future, and pride in the people he works with and the company he works for.
"If I'm gonna work, I can't think of too many other places I'd rather work," Duke said. "Well, maybe playing third base for the St. Louis Cardinals."