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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (December 20, 2000 - PIDP/CPIS)---British Petroleum (BP) is preparing to assume responsibilities for the interim operation of the government-owned Gataivai Tank Farm on January 1.

The government last month rushed to secure a tank farm operation agreement between BP and Mobil Oil after a surprise announcement from Tesoro South Pacific that it would pulling out of American Samoa on December 31.

Since then, the government has been working closely with the two petroleum suppliers to assure that American Samoa will not face a crisis that would force the shut-down of the tank farm.

BP officials are meeting with the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard to secure approval in order for them to take over management.

The group also made a courtesy call on Governor Tauese Sunia, according to the Governor’s legal counsel, Henry Kappel.

"The BP officials are here in preparations for assuming the responsibility of interim operator of the Tank Farm on January 1st," Kappel said. "The group also met the Coast Guard for their oil spill plan and others plans to be put in place."

Chief Petroleum Officer Sione Kava confirmed that BP will take over management on January 1.

The local government is providing assistance to assure that all federal requirements are met before December 31.

All parties involved in the tank farm operation before March 31 will revisit the decision of a joint venture between BP and Mobil.

Kava said that as soon as the joint venture is in place, "then I think BP will go with the first three years and Mobil takes over three years after that.

"Right now, we don’t foresee any immediate problems with the January 1 takeover by BP," Kava said.

While the BP delegation is here, the group will also visit with current employees of Tesoro to assure a smooth transition when Tesoro fully pulls out of the territory.

The meeting is also being held to assure Tesoro employees that they will remain on the job once Tesoro leaves.

The meeting is part of the original agreement made when Tesoro first announced that it would pull out of the territorial petroleum market.

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