Salt Lake City Oil Spill: Chevron Pipeline Leaks Thousands of Gallons for Second Time in Six Months

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After a Chevron oil pipe has leaked crude oil near the Red Butte Creek in Salt Lake City, Utah for the second time in six months, city and state officials are calling for the oil company to shut down the pipeline indefinitely.

The leak which, was reported by Chevron employees at 11:30 PM on Wednesday, spilled an estimated 100 barrels of oil.  Emergency response crews, with the help of oil booms and earthern berms, were able to stop the flow of oil 50 feet before it reached the nearby Red Butte Creek.  

In June, the same section of the pipeline failed leading to 800 barrels of oil leaking into the community.  The oil contaminated three waterways: the Jordan river, Red Butte Creek, and the Liberty Park pond.  The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) allowed the pipeline to resume operations only eight days after the initial spill.  The DOT determined the pipeline was safe after Chevron conducted five tests of the compromised section.

The oil giant may not receive such an allowance this time around, especially if Salt Lake City mayor Ralph Becker has his way.  Becker has requested the DOT’s Public and Hazardous materials Safety Administration shut the pipeline down indefinitely while an independent investigation of the pipeline and the latest incident is conducted.

This morning at a press conference an incensed Becker said, “At this point we cannot trust Chevron.  Chevron has broken the trust we have and the work that’s been done to give us a safe pipeline and [our efforts] to protect the community.” 

Although Chevron (NYSECVX) was not represented at the press conference, the company has stated it will take full responsibility for the oil spill.  The last spill, more major in its scope, saw Chevron receive a $423,600 fine from the U.S. government.  So, just how much responsibility the oil giant will have to assume will be a developing story.

Regardless of the financial and legal ramifications, it will be hard for Chevron to win back the citizens of Salt Lake City, many of whom have condemned the company after this incident.  Zach Frankel, executive director fo the Utah Rivers Council, said, “This outrageous spill demonstrates Chevron’s incompetence. Chevron is a bad corporate steward of Utah’s environment.”

Image credit: Dan Morris

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