The Scoping Comments Deadline Was Extended to April 21, 2014--Please Submit Yours!
More Pipelines, More Crude, More Spills?
Coming on the heels of three notorious pipeline spills within Utah’s recent past, Tesoro Refinery announced in February a private partnership for a new proposed, 135-mile, twelve-inch diameter heated crude oil pipeline from Duchesne to Bountiful. The pipeline would follow an existing pipeline right-of-way through a myriad of private, state and U.S. Forest Service lands.
The reason the pipeline would need to be heated is that most of the oil coming out of the Uinta Basin is what’s called black wax crude. Simply put it contains an inordinate amount of paraffin wax, therefore requiring it to be kept at a certain temperature in order for the product to flow.
In that context, a heated pipeline makes sense. Until one thinks of the energy needed to both heat a 135-mile underground pipeline and also provide the pumping necessary to move it up and down numerous mountain valleys for that distance. Which is why this project will require at minimum five separate pumping stations, all requiring more energy.
Perhaps even more alarming is that it’s a pipeline. And pipelines break. A lot. Nationally, since 1986, there have been 7,978 pipeline incidents (both oil and natural gas), resulting in 536 fatalities, 2,366 injuries, 3845 hazardous liquid incidents and $6.75 billion in property damage. Pro-Publica produced an eye-opening report on pipelines recently.
Equally alarming is that this pipeline will cross the Provo River drainage, which of course feeds Deer Creek Reservoir, the source of drinking water for more than a million people in Utah. It might also be worth mentioning that the Provo River is one the state’s most treasured sport fisheries in Utah, the result of huge restoration efforts back in the 1990s.
Billing it as the “environmentally friendly alternative,” Tesoro has made the erroneous claim that building this pipeline will take 250 tanker trucks off the road daily. But considering the economics and politics around an oil boom where everything is dependent upon getting the oil out the ground and to the refineries as quickly as possible, it’s quite likely that both the trucks and the pipeline will be needed. However, if Tesoro really wants to bet their project on this claim, perhaps they are willing to sign moratorium agreement on tanker truck traffic with the Utah Department of Transportation, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, Uinta and Duchesne Counties, and the governor’s office.
Because the pipeline would traverse about fourteen miles through federal lands, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires the US Forest Service to conduct a full environmental impact study, or EIS. The first stage in this process is accepting initial public comment about the need for and impacts of the proposed pipeline. Because of problems with the initial contact information provided, the deadline for these initial or scoping comments has been extended to . Comments may be submitted to email@example.com, by fax to 801/253-8118, or by US Mail to Nelson Gonzalez-Sullow, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest Supervisor's Office, 857 West South Jordan Parkway, South Jordan UT 84095-8594. Electronic comments must be submitted in a format such as an e-mail message, rich text format or Microsoft Word document.
Consider these points when registering your comments with officials:
- A pipeline won’t solve the truck problem. Proponents are claiming the pipeline will remove from the highway 250 tanker trucks per day. A pipeline would create additional oil transport capacity into Utah refineries rather than replace it. It does not prohibit trucks. It offers no assurance against more truck traffic as oil production continues to rise. Solving the truck problem requires regulating trucks.
- More dirty oil refining means more dangerous air pollution. The pipeline will increase the amount of oil that can be brought to the Wasatch Front. Coupled with plans to expand area refineries and also plans to expand U.S. Highway 40, this additional oil promises to worsen rather than reduce refinery pollution already impacting Utah's families.
- With oil pipelines come oil spills. Pipelines break; this one would threaten communities, landowners, forest ecosystems, wildlife, and waterways. In 2010 Chevron's pipeline spilled 54,600 gallons of dirty crude into Salt Lake City’s Red Butte Creek. Nationally, since 1986, pipeline breaks have resulted in 536 fatalities, 2,366 injuries, 3845 hazardous liquid incidents and $6.75 billion in property damage. For an alarming graphic on this, see:http://bit.ly/NL3AN4
- More oil, more warming, less water for Salt Lake City. Researchers warn that our warming climate threatens to reduce watershed flows that provide Salt Lake City’s drinking water. Expanding oil development in Utah will worsen greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to warming and water supply threats.
- Every dollar invested in dirty energy is a dollar that does not get invested in clean, renewable energy.Further investment in dirty energy infrastructure in Utah only increases our addiction to climate-disrupting, air-polluting fuels and discourages clean energy companies from investing in Utah. Utah’s leaders should be doing all they can to attract clean energy investment, not shun it.
Forest service officials tell us that they do not expect to have their draft EIS ready for public comment until late 2015 at the earliest. Be assured that the Sierra Club will be organizing our members and the public to submit comments throughout this process. In the meantime, if you’d like to get involved in this issue, get in touch with us via e-mail, tim.wagner@sierraclub.