Saturday, 24 March 2012

Salt City Residents To Metaphorically Kick Buzzsaw Through Chevron's Face

I love my city!

Even though we are flush with no coast pride here, our lack of, say, a gulf coast or a scenic, reef-bejeweled shoreline didn't stop us from catching an oil spill right in the chops back in 2010.



Yes, Red Butte Creek and the Jordan River were the recipients of a generous helping of 33,000 US gallons of Chevron's finest crude. Chevron's leak lasted a few hours, and they performed a pretty extensive cleanup operation that could be seen mucking around in Liberty Park for what felt like ages.

To their credit, Chevron ate the bill in its entirety. From the Tribune back in 2010:

Chevron is pledging to pay all public invoices - expected to reach into the millions - for cleanup services rendered to Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, and state agencies. 
Unlike the BP Gulf disaster, in which federal hand-wringing has politicized the reparations, the cleanup of Salt Lake City's environmental crisis appears straightforward.

And pay they did. The cleanup effort involved basically every public agency in the area - firefighters, police, parks personnel, everybody. Overtime expenses for 12-hours shifts for city crews alone must have cost quite a pretty penny.


As though that weren't fun enough, a second spill happened weeks later, blessing the waters with another 26,000 gallons of crude. The pipeline finally re-opened in 2011 and has (so far) not had any more problems. Chevron estimates that they have spent about $40 million on cleanups and settlements so far.

Well guess what? Chevron had better brace for impact, because on Friday a group of Salt Lake City residents sued their ass for what probably amounts to millions more. From the Trib:

A group of 66 people who live near the site of a 2010 oil spill into Red Butte Creek filed suit on Friday in federal court, seeking unspecified damages for the "devastating" effects of the spill. 
They allege that despite Chevron's cleanup, remnants of oil linger, causing health problems and a drop in property value, and that the company failed to fix the problems that caused the spill. 
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court, will likely seek "tens of millions" of dollars in damages, said attorney Paul Durham.

The Deseret News follows up:

"There is residual crude oil contamination in and near the creek which includes numerous carcinogenic compounds. These dangerous compounds are in concentrations above a level of concern for human and ecological receptors, according to data we have gathered," [Attorney Paul Durham] said.

Now, let me stop here for a moment and explain the one thing that bothers me about this suit. You see, the 66 residents happen to live in a very, very ritzy neighborhood in Salt Lake. And Paul Durham isn't some white knight riding into battle on behalf of environmental justice - he is a partner at Durham, Jones and Pinegar, quite the slick business-law operation with offices in Salt Lake City AND Las Vegas.

I'm not saying DJP or the residents don't have a good case, or that they shouldn't win damages from Chevron. Just don't mistake this for, oh, say a lawsuit against Rio-Tinto/Kennecott by physicians and mothers. These residents are suing because their ritzy backyards got messed up, and that's their right - and it's DJP's right to take a nice, juicy slice of the pie for themselves in the process.


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