The announcement appears in small type on page 4,657 of the most recent Federal Register newsletter. But, in our eyes its front page news, deserving of a bold-face font.
According to the notice, a subsidiary of the Tesoro oil refining company is laying the groundwork for an application to build a crude oil pipeline from the oilfields in the Uinta Basin to the refineries in Salt Lake City right through Summit County.
As proposed, the pipeline would originate near Myton, east of Starvation Reservoir moving westward over Forest Service land in the Uinta Mountains and enter Summit County in Woodland. From there the pipeline would roughly follow State Route 35 to Francis. At that point, three alternative routes have been proposed to move the waxy crude oil across Summit County toward its destination in north Salt Lake City.
A proposed northern route would hug the foothills on the west side of the Kamas Valley, passing through Wanship and Hoytsville before turning west at the south end of Echo Reservoir and leaving the county just north of East Canyon Reservoir.
The two other proposed routes stick closer to State Road 248, turning north on U.S.40 toward Kimball Junction, where they split up. From there, one route heads due north toward East Canyon, goes on to Bountiful and enters the refinery cluster at Woods Cross from the east. The other would take a more westerly path through Parley's Canyon, past the University of Utah, toward City Creek Canyon and enter Woods Cross from the south.
All of the routes, at one point or another, traverse wildlife refuges, scenic public lands, watersheds and established populations. It will be our mini-version of the Keystone Pipeline debate.
Currently the oil is trucked from the Uinta Basin to Salt Lake via U.S. 40 and I-80 with more than a hundred double-trailer tankers making the trip every day. And that number is increasing.
Proponents of the project say a pipeline could help reduce that traffic, which would be especially welcome in Heber, where the tankers rumble right down Main Street. It would also mitigate the hazard of having loaded oil tankers descending Parley's Summit amid rush-hour traffic.
The downside, however, includes the disruption of natural habitat during construction and the potential for an environmental disaster of epic proportions if the pipe breaks.
Unfortunately, as long as our appetite for fossil fuels continues to grow, we will be faced with dismal choices between the lesser of evils, none of them good for the environment and none sustainable for the long haul.
The upcoming debate over the Uinta Express Pipeline is sure to be an emotional one, and is likely to pit communities against each other in an effort to avoid having the pipeline built in their own backyards. But let's not be distracted from the real objective, which should be to develop alternative energy sources that won't add even more pollution to our state's already critical air-quality crisis.
The official notice starts the clock on a 45-day comment period that includes public meetings Wednesday, Feb. 19, from 6 8 p.m. at Wasatch High School in Heber City and Thursday, Feb. 20, from 6 8 p.m. at Bountiful High School in Bountiful. Public input can be submitted throughout the 45-day period.
Comments can emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, faxed to 801- 253 8118, or mailed to: Nelson Gonzalez-Sullow, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest Supervisor's Office, 857 West South Jordan Parkway, South Jordan, UT 84095 8594.