SALT LAKE CITY — Tesoro announced Friday that its plans for a 135-mile heated, crude oil pipeline that would cut through the heart of Kamas Valley and bisect two major rivers are on indefinite hold, much to the relief of Summit County officials and environmental organizations.
Kim Carson, chairwoman of the Summit County Council, said the project — which has dogged the county for more than three years — was a huge concern given its potential impact to the Provo and Weber rivers, wetlands and the area's watershed in general.
"We were extremely concerned because of the area it was going through," she said.
Tesoro announced in January it was completing a strategic review of the project, which had gone through a detailed engineering phase and was in the midst of the drafting of federal environmental review process.
The company was in the process of acquiring the necessary permits when "unfavorable market conditions" such as cheap crude oil and even cheaper natural gas led to the conclusion to postpone the project, said Cindy Gubler, a public relations consultant hired for the Uinta Express Pipeline.
"This downturn has added uncertainties about the economics of shipping crude oil through the Uinta Express Pipeline," she said.
Gubler added that the extensive work already undertaken on the project leaves the proposal on the table should conditions change.
"Tesoro is committed to being part of the community," she said. "Utah is an important area for them. They’ve been here a long time and look forward to being here a lot longer."
New technology would have allowed Tesoro to convey an estimated 60,000 barrels of the thick waxy crude from the Uinta Basin to the company's refinery in Salt Lake City, where upgrades are underway.
Tesoro officials anticipated the increased oil production from the region would have added to the already heavy truck traffic of about 250 trips a day along U.S. 40 and I-80.
Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Tar Sands Resistance led a campaign against the pipeline, arguing that more oil for the Wasatch Front would mean more air pollution and risks to the environment in Summit County were unacceptable.
While changing market conditions may precipitate a resurrection of the pipeline proposal, Carson said she believes Summit County and its residents can rest easier given the process that has already been undertaken.
"I still think it was a good process, and we have new ordinances on the books that will help to protect our waterways and our soil," she said. "There also might be a completely different project in the future, but we will be better prepared for it."
Last summer, the Summit County Council approved three ordinances related to pipelines that convey oil and other hazardous materials. The ordinances address risk to public health and the environment, compliance with state and federal regulations, and an assortment of hazards related to ruptures or unintentional pipeline damage.