BOUNTIFUL - U.S. Forest Service representatives hold the final decision on where the proposed Tesoro pipeline will go, and they want to hear what you have to say.
The agency is holding an open house on Thursday, Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. at Bountiful High School to discuss the early stages of the pipeline project, which will likely be used by several refineries in both Davis County and Salt Lake. Though no final decisions have been made, the company would like the pipeline to follow 400 North along underground utility lines.
“It’s just a proposal,” said Bountiful City Manager Gary Hill. “It’s so preliminary that we plan to attend the open house ourselves, and will form a response once we have a little more information.”
Even when they do, there’s only so much impact the city can have. Though there will be another public comment period a year from now when the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) comes out, the decision about the final route goes to the major landowner. The U.S. Forest Service owns the greatest percentage of the land the 135-mile long pipe will travel through.
“The cities have the permitting process, and we’ll be working with the appropriate entities to get permits,” said Michael Gebhardt, vice president of business development for Tesoro. “But the formal record of decision rests with the lead agency, which is the forest service.”
If the pipeline does end up traveling through Davis County, its strongest impact within the city limits will be as a large construction project. The entire pipe will be located underground, except for the occasional valve, which means that 400 North will be torn up to lay the pipeline.
The Bountiful City Council has already passed a pipeline franchise ordinance that requires Tesoro or any other company to pay for the relocation of existing utilities, and post a bond that would ensure the streets would be repaired even if the company went bankrupt.
Once it crosses the city limits, the pipeline will travel into West Bountiful before heading south, also using current utility routes. The entire length will be four to six feet below the ground, which will place it below the area’s frost line.
Even if freezing won’t be an issue, there are other safety concerns. Though the pipeline has sensors and remote valves designed to watch for and guard against potential leaks, some Utahns feel those measures aren’t enough.
“It’s only a matter of time before there’s an accident,” said Dan Mayhew, chair of the Utah chapter of the Sierra Club.
Though he admits the loss of 250 refinery trucks traveling up and down Utah roads will be an advantage, he feels that the pipeline only encourages greater expansion of local refineries. Tesoro’s Salt Lake refinery recently won a legal battle to move ahead with a planned $180 million dollar expansion.
“The refinery expansion is what the pipeline is all about,” Mayhew said. “They’re expanding so they can bring in more oil than they are now, which will let them expand again. It’s a domino effect.”