Mayors caught off guard by plans to restart Chevron line

Published: Friday, Jan. 28 2011 8:53 p.m. MST

Salt Lake City Fire Department and Chevron clean oil spilled at Red Butte Gardens next to the University of Utah in December, the second of two spills from the pipeline last year.

Tom Smart, Deseret News, KSL Chopper 5

SALT LAKE CITY — Mayor Ralph Becker and Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Coroon appeared caught offguard Friday by news that Chevron plans to restart the pipeline that burst twice near Red Butte Garden last year.

Both mayors are saying the oil company should have talked to them first.

Chevron says it has received permission from the Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and plans to restart the line on Feb. 1.

"The company has had ongoing dialogue with the federal agency on its restart plan since mid December, and the plan submitted today is the result of these discussions and the follow-up actions," Chevron said in a statement dated Tuesday, Jan. 25.

"I am deeply concerned that PHMSA made the decision to approve the pipeline restart without adequate communication with Salt Lake County or Salt Lake City," Corroon said in a statement Friday. "We have not had time to review the full start-up plan to ensure it protects the interests of the Salt Lake Valley."

Becker is asking the Chevron Pipe Line Co. to hold off on the restart plan until the city and its outside consultant can "thoroughly evaluate the restart plan."

Becker said the city first saw the company's restart plan late Thursday afternoon. "Although the pipeline company has federal approval to restart the line, delaying the start up would be appropriate and consistent with previous assurances offered by the company, allowing us time to conduct a thorough and thoughtful review," he said. "Certainly our trust has not been restored in Chevron through the actions that they've taken here this week by deciding to move ahead with the restart when we haven't even had a chance to review and comment on the restart plan."

A pipeline breach on June 12 spilled 33,000 gallons of oil into Red Bute Creek. The spilled oil then traveled downstream to the pond in Liberty Park pond. A subsequent federal investigation led to a fine of $423,600.

On Dec. 1, a six-inch valve in the same pipeline fractured above Red Butte Gardens, filling a catchment vault with as much as 500 barrels of oil, some of which migrated to about 500 feet from the area affected by the June spill. Fines followed the second spill as well.

Chevron spokesman Mickey Driver said the company gave a copy of their restart plan to Becker's office several days ago and invited the city's input. "The plan was provided to the city’s consultant to review on Wednesday, prior to formally giving it to the mayor's office after approval," Driver said.

Becker said Friday evening that giving the plan to an outside consultant is not the same as giving it to his office, and that he did not see the plan until Thursday afternoon.

The city has questions for both Chevron and federal regulators it plans to explore in a Monday-morning conference call, according to Becker's office.

Chevron said it has performed extensive inspections, modified operational procedures, improved control center leak detection capability and implemented external surveillance processes.

E-mail: sfidel@desnews.com

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