After the discovery of a large oil field in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska in 1968, U.S. Congress decided to construct a pipeline transversing Alaska as a means of transporting the oil to the nearest ice-free port at Valdez, Alaska. Congress passed the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorizaiton Act in 1973 as an authorization for the building of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS). Many environmentalists protested the construction, concerned about the effects that the pipeline would have on the surrounding environment, as well as the potential risk of an accident that could devastate the region.
In 1972, before the Act went to Congress, the Secretary of the Interior released an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) stressing the importance of minimizing the nation's dependence on foreign oil. The Arab oil embargo of 1973, which occurred immediately prior to the vote of Congress, reinforced this perception and positively swayed public opinion towards expansion of the domestic oil market.
The Secretary of the Interior and the State of Alaska authorized the federal and state right-of-ways for construction of the pipeline in 1974. The Act mandated the use of state-of-the-art technology, to protect and preserve the environment while still upholding economic practicalities during the construction, operation, and maintenance of the pipeline. TAPS, built between 1974 and 1977, extended approximately 800 miles across the state of Alaska upon completion.
History of Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) (TAPS Renewal Environmental Impact Statement Website)
About the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (Answers.com)
Oil Pollution Act of 1990: Full Text (U.S. Coast Guard)
Coates, Peter. The Trans-Alaska Pipeline Controversy: Technology, Conservation, and the Frontier. Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press, 1994.