County Council approves pipeline regulations |

County Council approves pipeline regulations

Three days before the county’s temporary zoning ordinance regulating hazardous liquids or materials transmission pipelines was set to expire, the Summit County Council approved amendments to both the Snyderville Basin and Eastern Summit County Development Codes to address the issue.

The council spent nearly two hours Wednesday discussing three new ordinances which regulate land uses, setbacks, and environmental hazards, including watershed and wetland protection. The temporary zoning ordinances the county adopted in response to Tesoro Refining and Marketing’s proposal to build a 135-mile long pipeline in the county were set to expire on Jan. 10.

Both the East Side and the Snyderville Basin Development Codes address transmission pipelines, without specifying the material inside. The newly adopted ordinances apply to future hazardous liquid or material transmission pipelines and were meant to address not only the Uinta Express Pipeline, but also any future pipelines that may go through the county. The regulations do not apply to existing pipelines.

"We know a lot of people are concerned about this issue, but Summit County is really at the forefront," Summit County Engineer Jennifer Smith said. "In our research, we have found that most ordinances have come about from a spill or leak and are very reactive instead of proactive."

A conditional use permit will be required in all zone districts, which allows the engineering department the opportunity to review any new pipeline plans in detail and make comments on it.

A significant portion of the discussion during the public hearing surrounded the setback distance from water sources, as defined in a source protection plan.

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"The setback distance is quite important to me," Council co-chair Roger Armstrong said. "The Weber River goes into the whole Provo River system and supplies substantial water to the Utah Valley and making sure that they remain clean and free of contaminants is really important."

The original language as it went before both planning commissions last month required a 2,500-foot setback from water sources. Both planning commissions held public hearings in November, resulting in the formation of a subcommittee to review the code language and provide feedback.

From those discussions, the subcommittee decided to move forward with a suggested setback of 1,000 feet because source protection plans from area water providers found that the affected areas of the Weber River, Provo River, East Canyon Creek, and their tributaries already are in source protection zones of 1,000 feet.

"Although they (protection zones) are accepted by the state, they don’t have any teeth unless a governing body gives teeth to them by adopting them," Chief Deputy Attorney Dave Thomas said.

According to a report provided to the council, in the event of a 200-barrel oil spill, the potential contamination could spread 700 feet on a 0 to 5 percent grade. A larger spill of 2,000 barrels could travel about 3,000 feet.

"The 1,000 feet we are using from source protection zones fit within that range, plus provides some additional legal backing," Thomas said.

Council members ultimately agreed on varying setback distances for the three protection zones. The different zones are based on contaminant risks to drinking water sources. Zone 1 has a 2,500-foot setback, Zone 2 has a 1,000-foot setback, and Zone 3 has a 500-foot setback.

"I felt, again, given the importance of the water, we should be more conservative and the other council members disagreed with me," Armstrong said, adding he wanted a minimum setback of 2,500 for all zones. "We’re probably OK in the short run, but I think the clock is ticking."

The ordinances also include the following restrictions:

  • 50-foot easement requirement or right-of-way over and through public or private land
  • 100-foot setback for all other creeks, streams, ponds, wetlands, and private or public wells
  • Allowance to cross 30 percent of slopes in certain cases, with certain mitigating requirements
  • 1,000-foot setback from any above-ground facility that represents an unusually high risk to life in the event of a pipeline failure, such as hospitals and residential care facilities

Clint Benson, an East Side resident, expressed his concerns about the reduction of the easement setback.

"I’m really concerned that it is now reduced to 50 feet, which allows the pipeline to run up to your front door," he said. "That’s a massive concern for any homeowner. You’re talking about a major hazard and it’s a concern for anyone trying to sell their property."

The language and specifics laid out in the ordinance were pulled from other ordinances, which are parallel to the federal code of regulations for pipelines, Thomas said.

Erin Bragg, Summit Land Conservancy director, spoke at the hearing, essentially supporting the council in their efforts to enact regulations to protect watershed and animal habitats.

"The Conservancy has identified the Weber River as one of the most critical and most threatened natural resources in Northern Utah," Bragg said as she read from a prepared statement. "We, and our many local supporters, are extremely concerned that one of the proposed routes of Tesoro’s Uinta Express Pipeline runs so closely to the county’s waterways. So we are encouraged by and fully support the continued efforts of our council members."

Paul Harmon, speaking on behalf of Tesoro, said the adopted ordinances are "workable for Tesoro, as they stand."

"We realize that these ordinances are being put in place not just to address the Uinta [Express Pipeline], but really to address any pipeline that may come to the county in the future," Harmon said. "We believe these ordinances as they now stand provide the county and its residents with a good framework."

Some of the engineering regulations the council approved state:

  • The pipeline owner must prepare an emergency preparedness plan that has to be coordinated with the county’s emergency manager and that copy must be on file with the county
  • For construction, temporary disruptions by a pipeline company have to provide 48-hour advanced written notices
  • If there happens to be an accident within a pipeline, owner must notify Summit County Emergency Manager and property owners within 1,000 feet, within four hours
  • Repair components must meet state and federal requirements