As environmental and route analysis begins on the proposed Uinta Express Pipeline, Summit County officials are unsure of exactly how much enforcement and discretion the county has in the placement of the pipeline. A federal grant the county applied for was denied this week, which would have brought on experts to assist with the process.
The grant, available yearly, is made available through the federal Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) program under the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The announcement for this year's grants, $50,000 each, was posted on Jan. 31 and its timeline was extended twice to eventually end on April 30.
However, the county did not find out about the grant until this Monday and staff was busy gathering materials and completing the application process until late Wednesday. Summit County Engineer Leslie Crawford said the county had "technical difficulties" with the website and they heard back from the agency that they were denied the grant early Thursday.
The grant money would help the county bring on experts to address concerns with the pipeline and write an ordinance governing future pipeline regulations, Crawford said.
"The purpose of the ordinance would be to establish requirements for new pipelines and would provide a set of buffers for development to occur," Crawford said.
The environmental impact statement (EIS) for the entire 135 miles of the pipeline is not expected to be completed until next year, so the county has time to craft an ordinance that it feels is in residents' best interests.
At Wednesday's Summit County Council meeting, Chief Civil Deputy Attorney David Thomas said any ordinance would only impact a pipeline if it passed either (1) before necessary permits are applied for (if needed) or (2) before groundbreaking begins.
County Council member Roger Armstrong asked what latitude the county has in crafting a pipeline-related ordinance.
"How much discretion does the county have in terms of pipeline placement? Or is the answer none?" Armstrong said. "How extensive can we be [with an ordinance]? Where does federal, state and county law stop us?"
Thomas said no state or federal law would preempt a county-written ordinance but the county could not restrict Tesoro's ability to utilize eminent domain on private property. It could require Tesoro, however, to maintain buffers from existing waterways.
Armstrong then asked Thomas whether the county could deny the placement of a pipeline based on the reasoning that it is detrimental to the "health, safety or welfare" of residents. Thomas said the county would not be able to use such vague language and would have to make such an instance more specific.
Summit County spokesperson Julie Booth said the county is getting assistance from the office of Rep. Rob Bishop, who will appeal the denial of the TAG grant.
Tesoro reaching out to landowners
As part of the preliminary stages of the EIS process, Tesoro right-of-way specialists have begun reaching out to approximately 45 Summit County landowners to walk their property in analyzing a potential route, according to Tesoro spokesperson Cindy Gubler.
Tesoro has been placing phone calls to those landowners whose properties lie along the preferred route to begin environmental surveys, Gubler said. Landowners will then receive a letter informing them of either a specialist's arrival at a certain date or a letter telling the landowner Tesoro could not get in contact with them.
After Tesoro has placed calls with all of the landowners along the potential route, Gubler said one more letter will be sent to those who have not responded. If no contact is received from the landowner after that letter, Tesoro will most likely try to contact those individuals in person.
"We understand there are landowners with misinformation or who are anxious," Gubler said. "We're early in the process we're just beginning to work with communities."
County Council member Dave Ure, who lives and owns land in Kamas, said he was contacted by Tesoro about a specialist walking his land. He added that another Kamas resident also received a call from Tesoro.
Gubler said Tesoro plans to brief the Coalville City Council on Monday, May 12, at 6 p.m. regarding the pipeline. The company is also trying to get in touch with Francis about doing a similar briefing for their city council.
For more information on the Uinta Express Pipeline, visit uintaexpresspipeline.com or visit fs.usda.gov/uwcnf and under 'What's Happening?' click 'Uinta Express Pipeline Environmental Impact Statement.' From there, maps can be viewed by clicking 'Project Documents.'