Tesoro Refining and Marketing filed a complaint in federal district court Wednesday against Summit County alleging that the county has infringed on its constitutional rights by enacting three ordinances in June that Tesoro argues are "arbitrary, capricious and illegal."
The oil company asks for judgment in its favor by having the ordinances be declared "null, void and of no effect," according to the complaint.
Tesoro, the owner and operator of an oil and petroleum-refining facility situated in Salt Lake County, Utah, has historically trucked unrefined waxy crude oil from sites in the Uintah Basin to the Salt Lake City refinery, the complaint says. "Tesoro has determined, however, that efficiencies of production and transport have indicated that the transport could be better accomplished via an underground pipeline To this end, Tesoro formed Uinta Express for the purpose of designing, locating, constructing, owning, and operating a proposed waxy crude pipeline."
Tesoro is proposing to build a 135-mile-long, heated pipeline to transport about 60,000 barrels of waxy crude per day. It is slated to enter Summit County near Woodland, travel west through Francis, and then turn northward, bisecting the Kamas Valley.
Tesoro alleges that "certain landowners within Summit County have contacted members of the Summit County Council requesting that Summit County take action to inhibit, restrict or prevent passage of the pipeline through Summit County.
On June 25, the County Council passed three separate ordinances, including two temporary land use ordinances that impose a six-month restriction on the placement of, according to the county, "hazardous liquids or materials pipelines" within the county. The ordinances, among other things, mandate setbacks and regulations that must be adhered to.
Among other claims, Tesoro alleges that the ordinances (numbered as 826, 826 and 827):
- are an "attempt to legislate in an area preempted by federal law"
- "were enacted without proper notice required by Utah law, and deprived Tesoro of procedural due process"
- "constitute invalidly-enacted temporary use measures not supported by an adequate and proportional finding of compelling, countervailing public interest"
- were "improperly enacted as arbitrary, capricious and illegal."
The complaint adds, "Summit County's enactment of ordinances violate rights securedby the Constitution and laws of the United States."
Summit County was quick in its response Wednesday. "Summit County is aware of the complaint filed today in U.S. Federal District Court by Tesoro Refining & Marketing company against Summit County," said Summit County Attorney David Brickey in an email to The Park Record. "Please be assured that the Summit County Attorney's
Office will aggressively defend the decision of the Summit County Council in passing Ordinances 825, 826 and 827 that protects Summit County residents. Summit County will not make any further statement until an official response is due in federal court."
Frances ReMillard, who lives outside of Kamas, is a concerned citizen who has been outspoken critic of Tesoro's proposed pipeline in the Kamas Valley. "First of all, I'm not happy," she said about Tesoro's complaint. "I think that is typical and predictable of a big corporation that wants to maximize its profits."
In a Thursday interview, Michael Gebhardt, vice president of strategy and business development for Tesoro, said that his company has tried to be collaborative and work with stakeholders. He added that they are committed to work with the County, area water purveyors and landowners.Gebhardt stressed that the complaint was not meant to initiate or escalate any conflict with Summit County. "After reviewing the ordinances that the County enacted, we had some concerns - the defined way to respond to those concerns is to file in a court of jurisdiction within 30 days, which we did," he said. "Both the ordinances and our response are procedural issues."
Gebhardt said the pipeline will benefit residents by taking about 250 tanker trucks off the road between the oil deposits in the Uinta Basin and the refinery in Salt Lake City. He predicted that Tesoro and the County will have productive meetings in the future. "We are developing good working relationships and this will be a new topic that will be part of our discussions as we continue to work together to develop the project," he said.