Now that the public comment period for the proposed Uinta Express Pipeline has closed, Tesoro and the Forest Service are embarking on an environmental analysis of the preferred route. That process is expected to take until the end of 2015, with potential construction of the pipeline to begin in 2016.
Larry Lucas, recreation and lands staff officer with the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, said the agency will facilitate the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the 15-mile section of the proposed 135-mile route that will go through Forest Service lands.
Forest Service specialists will work with Tesoro contractors and specialists to start looking at issues on the ground as well as possible alternatives, Lucas said. After that, field surveys such as soil sampling, cultural research and wildlife surveys will be conducted in conjunction with other federal, state and local agencies.
For the remaining 120 miles of the pipeline that run through Woodland, Francis, Kamas, Rockport, up the I-80 corridor from Wanship to Coalville and west to Bountiful, however, Tesoro specialists will be working with landowners as well as city and county governments to analyze the best route possible.
Tesoro Vice President of Business Development Michael Gebhardt had previously said the company is looking to "maximize existing utility corridors, proximity to existing pipelines and minimiz[e] impacts to communities." He also said Tesoro will negotiate with landowners in crafting the route, as it will have eminent domain at its disposal, although Gebhardt said he wants to avoid those situations by any means.
Many residents in Francis are concerned that, if the pipeline parallels the existing Chevron crude pipeline, it could create several potential instances of eminent domain, where private property can be converted to public use, providing fair compensation is given to property owners. Gebhardt said Tesoro will collaborate with Francis City in designing the route through the town to "minimize new disruption."
Possible property disturbance is not the only concern with the pipeline, however, as the Weber and Provo Rivers could be jeopardized. Scott Paxman, assistant general manager at the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, said all area water managers met with Tesoro several weeks ago and will do so again next month.
"The preferred alignment [of the pipeline] seems to be the most impactful alignment for water resources," Paxman said. "There are 18 to 23 miles where it's not just parallel to but adjacent to the Weber River, [Rockport] Reservoir from Oakley to Coalville."
Paxman hopes that Tesoro designs the route to reduce impacts to waterways and riparian areas, as well as with a buffer of at least 1,000 feet between the pipeline and water sources. He added that Weber Basin has suggested that their specialists go out into the field with Tesoro specialists to analyze impacts.
Weber Basin has also requested Tesoro install several of check valves along the route so that flow of the waxy crude oil can be stopped as soon as possible. The waxy crude must remain above 90F before it solidifies. Paxman said he would like Tesoro to place equipment to control potential spills along parts of the route that may be susceptible to spills, especially near river crossings.
"If you have a [pipeline] break, you're expecting that product to solidify fairly quickly, which is good in most cases," Paxman said. "That prevents it from running down creeks and into the river, but once it's in the river, we don't know how easily it is to clean all the riparian areas."
The Weber River supplies water to over 600,000 people, Paxman said, so any spill in that waterway would have a huge impact.
"[This pipeline] has to be done right and it has to be done right the first time," Paxman said. "Don't be so naïve as to think an accident can't happen."
For more information on the proposed Uinta Express Pipeline from Tesoro, contact its community care line at 801-560-3044 or visit uintaexpresspipeline.com.