County Council tackles pipeline issue
With a standing-room-only crowd in attendance, the Summit County Council passed three ordinances Wednesday, June 25 at the County Courthouse relating to hazardous liquids and materials pipelines during its weekly meeting.
Staff representatives from the County Engineering, Community Development, Sustainability Departments and Attorney’s Office spent six weeks researching best practices and model ordinances from around the country to establish comprehensive standards for pipeline development in Summit County, and presented their findings before the council unanimously approved the ordinances.
"This is an important first step," said Councilman Roger Armstrong. "Its puts some ordinances in place which we hadn’t had before We’re trying to find the edges of what we can and can’t do."
"We [felt] a sense of urgency to get something on the books," County Council Chair Chris Robinson said.
Previous Park Record stories have reported that Tesoro Refining and Marketing, LLC, is "proposing to build a 135-mile-long, 12-inch diameter, heated pipeline to transport approximately 60,000 barrels of waxy crude per day, from its oil fields in the Uinta Basin to the refineries in north Salt Lake City. Dubbed the Uinta Express Pipeline, it is slated to enter Summit County near Woodland, travel west through Francis and then turn northward, bisecting the Kamas Valley According to Tesoro, the pipeline is preferable to the increasing number of oil transport trucks currently traveling through the county via U.S. 40 and Interstate 80. That traffic is currently pegged at 250 trips per day and is expected to increase as the oil fields are expanded."
In a recent meeting, spurred by residents, the County Council expressed concern that the proposed pipeline could threaten rivers, creeks, wetlands and the regional water supply.
The issue was pushed onto Wednesday’s agenda after three residents dominated the public-input portion of the council’s June 18 meeting, leading to an hour-long discussion of the pipeline and lingering questions after a June 10 community open house at South Summit Middle School in Kamas. The trio expressed concerns that a high-pressure pipeline slated to run through the length of Kamas Valley so close to the watershed could be disastrous in the event of a leak or spill.
The new rules are designed to, according to the language in the ordinances, "prevent and minimize unnecessary risk to the public health and welfare due to transmission pipelines [and] protect human life and health; minimize the likelihood of accidental damage to transmission pipelines due to external forces, such as construction activity and equipment; avoid exposing land uses with high-risk on-site populations that are difficult to evacuate; help reduce adverse impacts in the event of a pipeline failure; and ensure compliance with and supplement existing federal and state regulations."
Although no members of the public were allowed to speak during the meeting, after the meeting members of the public expressed measured satisfaction that the Council was tackling the issue.
"The Council is as concerned about protecting our waterways as we are," said Robyn Geist, outreach and development director of the Summit Land Conservancy.
"They have stepped up to the plate," said Frances ReMillard, who lives on the west side of Kamas Valley. "Council starting talking about teeth, Surely there ought to be teeth."
Others were more skeptical, Jan Perkins, of Oakley, an artist who said she derives her inspiration from the untouched beauty of the land, heard ReMillard’s comments. Perkins added, "It’s more gum than teeth."
"We’ve just become aware of the ordinances and are currently studying them," said Michael Gebhardt, Vice President of Strategy and Business Development for Tesoro, after the meeting in an email to The Park Record.
"We have been proactively engaging with the county, local water purveyors and landowners," said Gebhardt. "As part of this effort, we have held a public open house in Kamas, provided the county with several briefings, met with the local water purveyors on multiple occasions and had discussions with key landowners. In addition to working with Summit County area stakeholders, we are working with stakeholders in other areas and the U.S. Forest Service, the environmental lead agency on the project, to look at route options and construction considerations, and to conduct extensive environmental studies to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and other federal, state and local environmental regulations. We believe this is a sound project that will provide a safe and more efficient means of transportation than exists today."
Meredith Reed was elected to a two-year term as chair of the Summit County Democratic Party and said she sees an opportunity to ride the so-called blue wave that saw a Democratic surge nationally and within the state.