U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton has nixed the idea of a citizens panel to oversee the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, to the dismay of many environmentalists. Green groups and oil company watchdogs have called for the creation of such a group, similar to the citizens councils mandated by Congress after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, to provide for more public input on the management of the pipeline. Pipeline operations are now overseen by the Joint Pipeline Office, a coalition of six federal and seven state agencies. Not surprisingly, spokespeople from the office say there is already sufficient oversight, but environmentalists say the JPO is not sufficiently critical of the pipeline operator, Alyeska Pipeline Service Company. Norton threw her weight behind the status quo this week, saying that “working through the existing processes would be better than creating a new process.”