Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, said he will introduce a bill next week in Congress to force federal regulators to change their plans to route a controversial natural gas pipeline along the Wasatch Front.
Hansen said the bill would force the U.S. Forest Service to allow the pressurized natural gas pipeline to be built through the Uinta National Forest, rather than through the urban Salt Lake Valley along the so-called "Wasatch Variation.""I will not have my constituents kicked around that way. We will do everything in our power to expedite it," said Hansen, who serves on the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee.
Hansen said he also will meet with F. Dale Robertson, chief of the Forest Service, to discuss the pipeline route that is opposed by residents in south Davis County. Residents say the pipeline route is unsafe because of an earthquake fault and landslides and because pipeline construction would scar mountain land.
Hansen made the announcement at a meeting of representatives of Utah's congressional delegation, south Davis mayors, pipeline company officials and state officials at the State Capitol. The meeting was called to help decide whether the Utah attorney general's office will challenge a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruling.
The commission voted Jan. 11 to certify the Wyoming-California Pipeline Co. (WyCal) to build a 30-inch interstate pipeline from the overthrust belt in southwestern Wyoming to oil fields in central California.
"It is kind of shocking. If it becomes law we would have to accept it," Gordon Reid, Utah energy coordinator with the U.S. Forest Service, said of Hansen's announcement.
Reid said the Forest Service objects to the pipeline passing through 30 miles of Uinta National Forest land in Summit and Wasatch counties because of unstable mountain land. Reid said that many areas along the pipeline route are similar to the Thistle slide area. Opponents believe the habitat of several species of endangered animals may also be threatened.
A representative of Kern River Gas Transmission Co., which is competing with WyCal to build the pipeline, was dismayed over Hansen's plan. Cuba Wadlington, executive vice president, told Davis mayors that delays that Hansen's bill might cause could be the "death knell" for the pipeline project.
Wayne Tiller, spokesman for WyCal, said from Colorado Friday, "The Wasatch Variation was not the route we originally applied for and was not our preferred route. We believed at the time of application and still believe that the pipeline can be built through the Uinta National Forest with minimal disturbance. We don't oppose the legislation proposed if it is expeditiously acted upon so as not to cause any delay."
Salt Lake-based Kern River wants to build the pipeline along the route already certified for WyCal. Mojave Pipeline Co. wants to build a pipeline from Arizona to California. Mojave and Kern River, which have had their pipeline environmental studies approved by the Federal Regulatory Commission, should receive final certification in April, Wadlington said.
Douglas Bischoff, Gov. Norm Bangerter's deputy chief of staff, said Bangerter would consider information presented at Friday's meeting before deciding whether to assist in a legal challenge to the certification.
Aides from the offices of Rep. Howard Nielson and Sens. Jake Garn and Orrin Hatch, all R-Utah, said they will wait for the governor's decision before pledging support for Hansen's legislation. No one from Rep. Wayne Owens' office attended the meeting.