Interstate pipeline approved for Wasatch Front


    By Dianna Douglas

    The Department of the Interior has approved a 480-mile interstate pipeline between northeast New Mexico and Salt Lake City that would be used to deliver oil, natural gas and jet fuel to the Wasatch Front, Colorado, and eastern Utah.

    The main benefit of the Questar Williams Kern pipeline will be a new supply of oil and gasoline into the Wasatch Front, an area that currently has high crude oil prices and a high consumption rate, according to the UDOT.

    The Bureau of Land Management, which proposed the project, hopes the $200 million pipeline will run through three different states and create more energy sources and more jobs in the next few years along the Wasatch Front, according to Laverne Steah, project manager for the BLM.

    Dr. Larry Baxter, professor of combustion research in chemical engineering said that the biggest fear about pipeline safety is the threat of explosion.

    The explosion of pipelines in recent years, including an explosion in August 2000 near Carlsbad, N.M. that killed 11 campers, have raised public awareness about the environmental and security hazards of pipelines.

    “Natural gas at high pressure is a serious explosion hazard,” Baxter said. “But there are many natural gas pipelines in operation in the country, and they don”t have problems very often,” he said.

    The objections to the Questar Williams Kern pipeline proposal have been lengthy, from citizens worried about the impact on their drinking water to environmental groups concerned with land and wildlife damages.

    However, Baxter said, most underground pipelines have a small environmental impact, especially if they are well constructed. “Pipelines, once they”re installed, are environmentally benign,” he said.

    Most objections came from other crude oil refineries afraid of the added competition.

    “A new supplier of crude oil in the valley will drive down prices,” and competitors are anxious about the economic impact, said Laura Clyde, associate planner at the Bear River contracting company that is designing the pipeline.

    “The extra revenue and competition that it will bring to the valley will be great,” Baxter said.

    Bear River and the BLM are working to get started this year, Steah said.

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