Salt Lake residents speak out on Red Butte oil spill

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Exactly one month after Utah's biggest oil spill in memory, the residents most affected are speaking out -- but not with a single voice.

For us to trust Chevron completely on this, I think, is a little bit naive.

–Peter Hayes, Citizens Response Committee

On the eve of a public hearing on the oil spill, one faction of residents along Red Butte Creek issued a set of demands, including a call for an independent commission to investigate. Meanwhile, other residents had high praise for the way Chevron is handling the cleanup.

Where Red Butte Creek flows into the Liberty Park pond, cleanup crews are still at work. Chevron claims they've already cleaned up most of the 800 barrels of crude oil that seeped out of a broken pipeline. It flowed down Red Butte Creek through one of Salt Lake City's choicest neighborhoods.

Salt Lake City resident Peter Hayes says Chevron has done "a pretty good job," but not on culverts and rocks in Red Butte Creek.

"I'd like to see what their plan is for the oil-stained rocks and for these culverts," he said. So far, we've heard that they're not going to do anything about either."

Hayes says he speaks for a group of about 35 residents that call themselves the Citizens Response Committee. They want Chevron to create a $15 million escrow fund to pay any future cleanup costs that might emerge, and they want changes to prevent more spills.

"[We ask] that something be built at every crossing of a major stream that enters this city of the pipeline, that would capture any kind of break and funnel it into a cistern to capture that oil," Hayes said.

One month later, crews are still working to clean up an oil spill that contaminated the Liberty Park pond
One month later, crews are still working to clean up an oil spill that contaminated the Liberty Park pond

The committee also advocates "significant fines."

"If you don't impose fines when laws are broken, then behavior doesn't change," Hayes said.

He also advocates for an outside investigation of the spill.

"We want to see an independent commission, and independent investigation of the spill," he said. "For us to trust Chevron completely on this, I think, is a little bit naive."

But Carolyn and Omar Barrani say Chevron did a great job cleaning the creek where it flows through their property.

"Chevron, I feel, has done more than what they needed to do here, and I'm really very happy about it," Carolyn Barrani said.

"They came numerous times and did a number of pressure washes and all kinds of different treatments of the stream," she continued. "I was impressed, we were impressed. We felt they went above and beyond the call of duty, and we felt that it's only fair to give someone credit when they do a good job."

The critics, though, demanded significant fines against Chevron for letting the accident happen in the first place, and they called on Gov. Gary Herbert to speak out on the issue.


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John Hollenhorst


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