As reported here after a spill that occurred this past summer that started on June 11th, Chevron has problems with the pipeline it maintains through the foothills above Salt Lake City and they are not going away. The June spill dumped 800 barrels of crude oil into Red Butte Creek which, in turn, found its way into the pond at Liberty Park and, ultimately, the Jordan River which flows into the Great Salt Lake. A second spill occurred on December 1st which resulted in an additional 500 barrels being pumped into the surrounding canyon.
The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), taking unusually quick action in light of what it has called a threat to life, property and the environment, issued a corrective action order last week which requires that Chevron shut the pipeline down until it can show compliance with all short and long-term safety regulations. It took five months for the PHMSA to issue a violation notice after the June spill. The recent speedy action by the PHMSA has been praised by Salt Lake City mayor Ralph Becker who has called for swift and decisive action in the wake of the second spill. He has also been keeping citizens informed with updates on the city’s website.
Current investigation findings suggest that the latest leak is the result of a broken valve caused by water left in the pipeline after a pressure test to see if the June leak was repaired. It appears that Chevron failed to make sure that all of the test fluid was flushed from the system before temperatures dipped to freezing and sub-freezing levels recently. In response, the PHMSA has ordered Chevron to:
- Submit a plan which includes specifications for removing all fluids from applicable facilities, components, valves and equipment;
- Ensuring that all facilities are inspected and are compliant with all applicable standards, including those of the manufacturers of all components;
- Test of pipeline start-up to monitor performance;
- Once re-started, monitoring of all affected valves including foot patrols;
- Metallurgical analysis of the faulty valve within 30 days; and
- Installation of external leak detection system within 60 days.
Given the proximity of the stretch of the pipeline between Park City and Chevron’s refinery in Salt Lake City to populated areas and sensitive ecological areas, it is imperative that Chevron get its act together and prevent any future leaks and resulting contamination.
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.