Rock art site Nine Mile Canyon could become ‘hydrocarbon highway’ under Utah bill

Editor’s observe This story is out there to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers solely. Thanks for supporting native journalism.

A tanker truck each 7 minutes. That’s the extent of oil-hauling site visitors that might cross by means of Utah’s quiet and scenic 9 Mile Canyon, house to the world’s largest focus of rock artwork, beneath a plan being quietly pushed by lawmakers this session.

The road-upgrade venture got here to gentle final week on the month-to-month assembly of the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition (SCIC), the place it drove a wedge between that interlocal group’s oil-producing and coal-producing members.

These counties joined forces a decade in the past to advertise main transportation initiatives to help mineral extraction in jap Utah, however now it seems their pursuits are diverging over SB51.

Representatives for Carbon County, house to 9 Mile, and two different coal-producing counties within the coalition have been dismayed to find the invoice wouldn’t solely raid a $53 million fund set as much as develop a coal-export terminal on the West Coast, it could additionally put a “hydrocarbon freeway” by means of a scenic canyon. 9 Mile Canyon is likely one of the world’s prime spots to view petroglyphs left by historical Native Individuals.

The proposal principally pits the pursuits of Duchesne County, Utah’s greatest oil producer, in opposition to these of its neighbor to the south, which views 9 Mile Canyon as a vacationer vacation spot, in keeping with county commissioners’ feedback on the SCIC’s Feb. 18 assembly.

“The 9 Mile street was not constructed to deal with heavy truck site visitors. We’re being advised there may very well be a truck each 7 minutes, relying on how a lot they construct the [oil production] quantity earlier than rail is probably put in to take that quantity,” Carbon’s Casey Hopes mentioned. “That street was not constructed to that customary. It was constructed to take some heavy truck site visitors however not a relentless pounding.”

The SCIC has just lately received federal approval to construct the oil-hauling 85-mile Uinta Basin Railway from Myton to the Union Pacific line on the prime of Worth Canyon, so it isn’t clear why one other pathway for Uinta crude is even wanted.

Again in 2014 when 9 Mile was first paved, officers mentioned the aim of that improve was not for hauling oil, however to serve rock artwork guests and pure gasoline wells contained in the canyon. The primary rationale was to reduce mud emissions from the previous filth street, which was obscuring and damaging the petroglyphs.

Now it seems hauling oil by means of 9 Mile stays a risk in any case, even with building on the railroad slated to start as quickly as January 2023.

“We don’t wish to be damage on either side of this. You are taking the infrastructure funding, in addition to take the vehicles and the broken roads that [Carbon County] constituents pay for,” Hopes advised the SCIC board. “We don’t obtain any income from the oil produced within the basin.”

The 9 Mile street travels about 78 miles from Myton to Wellington, passing by means of the Monument Buttes oil discipline on the West Tavaputs Plateau, then down the E book Cliffs at Gate Canyon earlier than winding by means of 9 Mile Canyon to U.S. Freeway 6.

All the street is now paved apart from a 5-mile stretch of switchbacks off the plateau by means of Gate Canyon. That’s the half that might must be upgraded to accommodate oil tanker site visitors. Whereas pricey, such a venture would considerably shorten journey occasions from the West Tavaputs oil wells to current oil-loading services on the Union Pacific line in Wellington.

The SCIC contains the oil and gasoline producing Uintah and Duchesne counties and coal-producing Carbon, Emery and Sevier counties. These three plus Sanpete county have sought to speculate $53 million in a rail-to-ship coal-loading terminal in Oakland, Calif. To facilitate that transfer, the Legislature saved cash from Utah’s Throughput Infrastructure Fund set as much as help main transportation initiatives that might join Utah-extracted minerals with faraway markets.

That fund’s enabling laws, nevertheless, conspicuously doesn’t embody roads on its record of eligible initiatives, which specifies transmission strains, railroads, pipelines and, after all, the ocean terminal. The prospects for a coal terminal in Oakland are all however useless beneath a settlement within the works between the Bay Space metropolis and port builders, probably liberating Utah’s infrastructure fund for different initiatives.

To permit that fund for use on highways, Sen. Ron Winterton, R-Roosevelt, added language to Sen. Wayne Harper’s SB51, a invoice ostensibly geared toward regulating emissions from “classic” vehicles, to divert $20 million from the infrastructure fund “for a freeway used primarily for the transportation of hydrocarbons.” Considerably misleadingly, Harper had advised a Home committee the cash would “restore” roads utilized by oil tankers.

The proposal was framed in a method that might please rural county commissioners, however coal nation leaders have been something however thrilled.

“I’m slightly bit behooved that he wouldn’t have come to speak to the counties that have been going to be affected by this,” mentioned Sevier County Commissioner Garth “Tooter” Ogden on the SCIC assembly. “To deliver this by means of the again door is just not the way in which to do legislative work. I respect all people on this board, however … these legislators want to return to the counties and go to with us earlier than they begin throwing issues on the market. … We try to guard our personal backyards.”

Showing on the SCIC assembly, which was held on the Capitol, Winterton mentioned he had acted on the course of “management” and pledged to drop the freeway funding provisions from SB51. However then gave his personal lecture to coalition board members, all rural county commissioners.

“In case you have an issue, that you must name the legislator. You don’t run round behind their again attempting to do one thing as a result of that backfires,” mentioned Winterton, himself a former Duchesne County commissioner who served on the SCIC board. Winterton mentioned he has “backed off” from raiding the infrastructure fund and pays for the 9 Mile venture by means of another means. However then he cautioned the SCIC’s coal-county members that he’ll “keep in mind” their complaints, which he characterised as unfair given his previous service to the coalition, and future funding requests is likely to be “slightly slower in coming.”

SB51 stays within the Home Guidelines Committee, the place it was despatched to endure a fiscal evaluation, earlier than being forwarded to the Home flooring for a vote. It has already been authorised by the Senate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.