Tesoro withdraws complaint against county, puts pipeline on hold
January 23, 2015
The lawsuit Tesoro Refining and Marketing filed against Summit County this summer has been withdrawn and any further development of the Uinta Express Pipeline project has been put on hold, according to Tesoro spokesperson Cindy Gubler.
"The lawsuit was filed in response to the ordinances previously put in place and therefore is not germane to the current ordinances passed by Summit County," Gubler said in an email to The Park Record.
Tesoro officially withdrew the complaint on Tuesday, Jan. 20.
Tesoro filed the complaint in federal district court in July as a response to the county’s temporary zoning ordinance regulating transmission pipelines carrying hazardous liquids or materials. The temporary zoning ordinances the county adopted expired on Jan. 10, prompting the County Council to pass three new ordinances earlier this month which regulate land uses, setbacks, and environmental hazards.
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 other future pipelines that may go through the county.
"Although the proposed pipeline triggered the amendments (ordinances), they aren’t specific to any pipeline," Summit County Planner Jennifer Strader said. "With the amount of time and effort we put into it, as far as the amendments go, I think we are comfortable. Something had to be done whether Tesoro came in with their pipeline or not."
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After the ordinances were passed, The Park Record reported Paul Harmon, speaking on behalf of Tesoro, as saying the adopted ordinances are "workable for Tesoro, as they stand,"
On Wednesday, Jan. 21, Tesoro sent an email to the county and The Park Record stating that the Uinta Express Pipeline project will be put on hold to allow Tesoro to complete an overall strategic review.
"During this review, expected to take place during the second quarter of this year, we will evaluate where this project and others fit within our portfolio," the email stated. "As part of this process, we will continue to assess the economics and market conditions."
For the past year, county officials have been in discussion with Tesoro regarding its proposal to build a 135-mile long, heated pipeline and considered itself a "cooperating agency in the process." The proposed route for the pipeline would lie on the eastern hillside of the Kamas Valley.
"We feel like the project is in a positive place in terms of community awareness and support," the email said. "We greatly appreciate the hard work and the strong collaboration of our stakeholders who have invested their time and expertise over the past year."
The conversations spurred multiple public hearings and comment sessions regarding the pipeline’s proposed route, bringing concerned residents out in droves. But no applications or permits were ever officially filed with the county for the placement of the pipeline.
"As for this particular case, we’ll just have to wait and see," Summit County Planning and Zoning Administrator Peter Barnes said of the project’s status. "We’re certainly not disappointed in Tesoro’s suspension of the job."
If Tesoro submits a permit application, the county is "in good shape, with the tools to study it," Barnes said.
"The knowledge we have all gained in drafting the ordinance is extremely useful," Barnes said. "We can’t be disappointed that we’ve learned something and have an extra tool in our tool bag. We spent many hours of time, especially on our behalf, and none of it was wasted work."