Breaking: 400 barrel Oil Spill in Salt Lake City

[UPDATE: The Salt Lake City Fire Department now estimates that up 33,000 gallons of oil (about 785 barrels) were released by the leak.]

A Chevron underground pipeline burst early on June 12th, gushing crude oil into a nearby stream for several hours. The spill, in the well-to-do neighborhood surrounding Salt Lake’s largest park, was gushing 50 gallons of crude per minute when responders arrived in the morning.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that residents 3 miles away smelled oil at 4am, the spill was officially reported at 6:45am, and the pipe was successfully shut-off by 8am. By then the oil had reached Liberty Pond (shown above) and was reported flowing into the Jordan River.

“In Liberty Pond the geese were brown – they’re normally white – I’ve probably known those geese for years, because I’ve gone to that park all the time,” said Ashley Anderson, a local climate activist.

Anderson gave me this account of the ground-zero-like scene at Liberty park during the press conference. “There were 25 firetrucks and hazmat suits everywhere. It smelled like the inside of a garage with a diesel truck running. The air was pretty bad.”

Chevron officials told the media what had happened and promised to clean it up. “One resident had gathered up a bucket of rocks from the creek that were coated in oil. He brought them with him to the press conference and got in Chevron’s face, saying ‘you’re going to pay for all this.’ The Chevron spokesperson said ‘of course we are’.”

When I asked him if he believed Chevron, he wasn’t optimistic. “Words are cheap, and corporations don’t understand real costs, or they do and they’re good at pretending like they don’t.” Anderson went on to explain that oil companies tend to be given free passes in Utah, which may soon be home to the United States first tar sands operation.

On Tuesday of this week, the Utah governor Gary Herbert released an energy plan where he asked: “Why are we drilling in the middle of the ocean where there is extreme environmental risk when we could be meeting the demand for domestic production from on‐shore development in areas with minimal environmental risk such as Utah?”

This year’s string of coal mine disasters, natural gas explosions and oil spills are forcing American to answer the question: at what cost are we willing to continue using fossil fuels?

For more photos, visit the KSL oil spill slideshow.

25 Responses to “Breaking: 400 barrel Oil Spill in Salt Lake City”

  1. 1 Caroline Jun 13th, 2010 at 2:17 am

    Thanks Morgan, for sharing the news of yet another awful fossil fuel accident and the damage caused. When will our government learn it’s time for real energy security, real energy safety, and real energy protection? What a reminder for each of us to work towards independence from fossil fuels.

  2. 2 Victoria Jun 13th, 2010 at 2:34 am

    The sun and the wind and the waves are free, as is thermal vents. Get a grip. Set it up … minor maintenance. No life lost. No polluting of environment. Why is there even a question of our direction?

  3. 3 charles Jun 13th, 2010 at 10:05 am

    Caroline – Our politico’s will get more serious about that stuff – when they quit taking the millions of dollars in various funds from the oil/coal/gas/utility companies. Until then – keep dreaming, ’cause it aint a happining!


  4. 4 Matt Jun 13th, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Utah has so much solar insolation (solar radiation intensity), it’s solar resources have tremendous potential. Very few Utahn’s drive more than 100 miles each way every day, many drive less than 15 miles- making EV’s extremely viable. PV + EV = A Clean and Energy Independent Utah.

  5. 5 Michelle Trzecinski Jun 13th, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    Hi, Not another oil spill.

  6. 6 wasatchsky Jun 13th, 2010 at 12:59 pm


    Liberty Park, only a mile up the road from me, is a well-used park by families in the city. While the oil leak itself started above the city and flowed through well-to-do neighbourhoods by way of Red Butte Creek, the park itself is in a mixed middle-low income neighbourhood. Liberty Park will reportedly be offlimits to residents for many weeks to come. For an oasis within the desert city, this will be devastating for the thousands of families who utilize the park, many who walk, bus, or bike to the park.

    Horrible in many ways, really.

  7. 7 Daniel Jun 13th, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    “The sun and the wind and the waves are free, as is thermal vents. Get a grip. Set it up … minor maintenance. No life lost. No polluting of environment. Why is there even a question of our direction?”

    Lessee… Wind power would consume MILLIONS of square acres and kill MILLIONS of birds each year. Wave energy would ruin our coastlines and kill MILLIONS of fish. And solar power would cover the planet with solar collectors which in their current form are very inefficient and costly.

    Geopower is nice but requires further development. Plus none of the above would power a car and before you start on the electric car thing – have you ever seen what happens to a high energy battery and anything nearby it when it gets crushed in an accident?

  8. 8 marinebattery Jun 13th, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    This is the such a sad time. Unfortunately, it will remain for many years, beyond decades. Many species will die off and never return. Everyone of them holds an important place in the food chain. We all know how that works.
    The one incredible aspect, the utterly incredible aspect of this spill is the reaction of politico’s. Anger towards the president for the 6 month moratorium. The ‘drill baby drillers’ still calling for more. They are undeterred by the never ending death & destruction. They live for today. They cry about spending & the next generation. The hidden agenda. Yet, they have no thought for the future generation when it comes to leaving anything alive when they get here. Once again, it is greed. Plane & simple. One last thought. This spill will not change a thing. It will be business as usual in time. At least until it happens again. That is just fact based on the past. I pray I am wrong.

  9. 9 M. E. Jun 13th, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Just stop with fossil fuels!!! We have so many clean energy sources that would not, in any way, effect the planet! Is the money for the oil companies and jobs worth jeopardizing our one and only planet for the future. They are selfish, ecocentric, and stupid. Just stop!!!

  10. 10 vinessa Jun 13th, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    It’s time to start taking the power back people!! If we want change we have to get off our lazy butts and stop giving these mega corporations control. We need alternative fuel sources and we need to stop letting these greedy corporations pay off the politicians so they can keep plans for change from happening. If people start waking up and being fed up we would see change.

  11. 11 nickengelfried Jun 14th, 2010 at 12:58 am

    Wow…Obama calls offshore drilling “safe,” and we get the BP disaster a few weeks later. Utah’s governor says we can drill there with “minimal environmental risk,” and we get a major spill in Utah, too. It’s time for politicians to stop calling oil extraction safe, and start working on a plan to eliminate US dependence on oil for good!

  12. 12 Jared Jun 14th, 2010 at 1:07 am

    This is absolutely horrible. When will the government actually do something instead of deregulate the oil industry. We need to hold these companies accountable for their actions or this will keep happening.

  13. 13 Andrea S. Jun 14th, 2010 at 2:07 am

    If all aspects of our environment were given a monetary value (clean air, water, landscape…) using alternative energy sources would be economical. It’s time to start erring on the side of caution rather than the side with the fattest wallet.

  14. 14 Mikel Jun 14th, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Stop sucking up Repub talking points and do research.
    All of your points are just that: Repub talking points to avoid the inevitable and not based on fact.
    We use 25% of the oil produced on the planet each year. We have 4% of the reserves. No matter how you figure it, things need to change.
    Looking down at he brown cloud that is SLC in the winter from Snowbird should be enough to convince anyone of that.
    Or keep your head buried.
    Personally, we’re down to filling the car every 2 weeks or longer. Using less, demanding less, destroying less.
    And, of course, it all requires further development. Duh! It’s called Progress and we’re called Progressives.
    But, go take a drink and a swim at Liberty Pond.
    Figure it out.
    And as far as the high energy battery thing, take a look at the Gulf. Or Prince William Sound.

  15. 15 Juniper Jun 14th, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Better review the fall out from tar sands oil operation in Canada before allowing it in Utah. The local indigenous are suffering strange ailments and rare cancers since the tar sands projects there began.

    Oil- its just nasty stuff.

  16. 16 sal Jun 14th, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    It’s about money!! Always has been. How much would these fossil fuel companies lose if a real switch were to occur. Probably billions.

  17. 17 deirdre Jun 19th, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    we’re so f**ked

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About Morgan

Morgan is a wandering climate activist, a job well suited to the editorial board of this site. He organized at Williams College until his aprubt and unfortunate graduation in 2008. There, he was a Chinese major, student body co-president and one of the leaders of Thursday Night Group, the campus climate action group. Since graduating, in no particular order, Morgan has worked on a community energy efficiency campaign in western Mass, co-directed NH SPROG for the SSC and worked on Power Vote in Cleveland. He spent traveled in China, networking with youth climate activists and learning about the solar hot water business. He worked on Long Island for a solar and wind company doing home evaluations and sales. And he spent the better part of a year in DC at the Avaaz Action Factory causing trouble for a good cause.

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