BOUNTIFUL — A key Weber Basin Water Conservancy District official is worried the new Tesoro pipeline might not be as problem-free as the public is being told.
“With our experiences – we’ve seen three impacts in our state,” said Scott Paxman, assistant director of the water district. He noted there have also been “several big instances outside the state where there have been leaks and a lot of environmental impact afterward.”
That makes it hard for him to trust statements from Tesoro “that you will never have a problem with the pipeline. And if you do, there will be no impacts.”
The pipeline is proposed to run from the Uinta Basin oil fields to oil refineries in south Davis and Salt Lake Counties. It will pass through several local cities, among them Bountiful and West Bountiful.
“We wanted to make sure the processes we are undertaking at the early stages are all designed to seek out input from community input on sensitive areas,” said Michael Gebhart, vice president of business development for Tesoro in Salt Lake City.
A meeting with water providers was held the end of last month, and Paxman was in attendance.
Gebhart said the pipeline is being designed to transport waxy crude. “It will be primarily buried and underground. There is an existing infrastructure with water lines, etc. Any time you consider a pipeline, you have to be aware of that.”
But he said considerations are similar to when a new pipeline is being considered.
“Whether the utility is sewer or water or cable or electric, or in this case waxy crude, communication is key,” Gebhart said. “We want to make sure we’re up front. That’s what the EIS (environmental impact statement) process is all about.”
He noted the process is in the “early stages,” with construction planned on the pipeline to start in 2016.
“We’re not trying to stop the pipeline” Paxman emphasized. “If you’re going to put one in, let us help with alignment – so there’s enough buffer between water and your pipes. So if something happens, we have room to catch it before it gets into the waterway, or to clean it up.”
He said “all design parameters need to be figured out before they even do a survey. Let’s figure it all out, look at all the issues first, then go ahead with the design.”
Paxman’s concern goes beyond protection of waterways, which serve about 600,000 people, but also riparian areas outside the waterways.
“They’re home to many millions of water life that we need to protect. It’s an entire environmental protection issue,” he said. “Once you’ve destroyed it, it will take decades for it to recover.”
“The pipeline technology and innovation continues to progress,” Gebhart said. “We fully plan to take advantage of the progression and best practices out there.”
There will be “continuous monitoring of product flow,” for example. “We can be pro-active and exploring conditions of the pipeline, rather than being reactive,” he said.
In addition, there will be driving or flying inspections done regularly, Gebhart said. “Valves at sensitive, strategic areas” will also be installed and controlled remotely.
“If something abnormal is detected, those valves can be detected, closed rather quickly, in some cases remotely,” he said.