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Chevron aims to restart SLC pipeline next week

Published January 24, 2011 9:45 pm

Oil spill • Chevron aims for next week, but regulators and SLC have yet to authorize plan.
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Chevron aims to restart its Colorado-to-Salt Lake City oil pipeline as soon as next week — two months after the second of two large leaks — but regulators have yet to sign off.

The company is finalizing its papers for the federal pipeline safety office and intends to submit them as soon as Tuesday, spokesman Mickey Driver said.

"If everything goes just right, in terms of approval and planning," he said, "we're looking at Feb. 1 to start up."

The pipeline has been shut down since a Dec. 1 spill leaked 21,000 gallons of crude from a broken valve near Red Butte Garden in Salt Lake City's eastern foothills. Six months earlier, the same pipeline spewed 33,600 gallons of oil that streamed down Red Butte Creek through east-side neighborhoods and into Liberty Park's pond before fouling stretches of the west side's Jordan River.

The spills rattled public confidence in Chevron and prompted Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker to demand that the pipeline remain closed until "we're satisfied, through independent assessments, that this pipeline is safe."

Becker secured a third-party review to go beyond the scope of federal regulations, and Chevron agreed to pay for it. The mayor also expects the pipeline to have a new external leak-detection system.

Becker spokeswoman Lisa Harrison Smith said Monday city officials were not prepared at this point to back the pipeline's restart. The city has yet to see the consultant's report, and it expects federal regulators to consider those findings before allowing the line to resume operations.

Federal regulators are requiring the oil giant to ensure that the 182-mile pipeline and related facilities are up to standard and meet manufacturers' specifications — particularly the 50-mile stretch from Park City to the Salt Lake City refinery, a "high-consequence area" tied to the watershed for 1 million Salt Lake Valley residents. They also have promised Becker they would "work to ensure that the pipeline is not placed back into service until it is safe to do so."

In an e-mail last week, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration had little to say about bringing the pipeline back into service.

"PHMSA remains in close contact with the Salt Lake City government and Chevron as the company works to complete the safety requirements," agency spokeswoman Julia Valentine wrote. "The pipeline remains shut down."

Driver noted oil still reaches the refinery. It flows through the pipeline to eastern Utah's Hanna, where tanker trucks then haul it to the plant.

Peter Hayes, an east Salt Lake City neighborhood activist, criticized Chevron for not making plans to remove the pipeline or shut it down permanently. He said reopening it is "a terrible decision, an immoral decision."

"That illuminates the lack of concern for people who live along the creek," he said. "The bottom line is that they don't care about people."





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