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Fairbanks man indicted in connection with 1978 pipeline bombing

By Hope Miller 6:29 PM May 23, 2014

A 61-year-old Fairbanks man has been indicted by a federal grand jury for making false statements to the FBI.

Phillip Martin Olson was indicted following a renewed investigation of a bombing attack on the trans-Alaska pipeline from mid-February of 1978, according to a statement from the district attorney’s office.

An indictment alleges that Olson told the FBI last year and earlier this year of his personal involvement in the pipeline attack. He also “falsely implicated another individual in carrying out the bombing with him,” prosecutors said.

Although assistant U.S. attorney Joe Bottini said prosecutors do believe Olson is responsible for the pipeline attack — and that he acted alone — they can’t charge him with that crime because of the statute of limitations.

On Feb. 15, 1978, a pilot flying over the pipeline, located north of Fairbanks, “spotted what appeared to be a large plume of crude oil jetting from the pipeline,” near Nordale Road and Chena Hot Springs Road, the statement said.

An investigation found that an explosive device had been put on the pipeline and detonated. Around 12,000 to 14,000 barrels of crude oil spewed from the pipeline and onto nearby terrain before the spill was stopped, the indictment says. Despite an investigation by state and federal law enforcement, no one was charged with the bombing.

In November 2013 — more than 35 years later — the FBI was told that Olson had been saying he was responsible for the bombing. At that point, a joint investigation between Alaska State Troopers and the FBI was renewed and involved interviews with Olson and others.

When interviewed three different times, Olson said he carried out the attack and implicated another person, the district attorney’s office said.

Olson’s accusations caused the FBI to waste time and resources looking into the claim, the indictment says.

Olson was arrested in Fairbanks Friday morning and arraigned in the afternoon. He faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

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