Uinta Basin Railway Must Assess Impacts to Colorado River
In August a D.C. Circuit Court vacated the Surface Transportation Board’s environmental review and directed further evaluation of the human and environmental impacts of a proposed segment of railway in the Uinta Basin in Utah. The new 88-mile track would provide for efficient export of waxy crude oil extracted from northeast Utah, along the Colorado River, to Gulf Coast refineries. Eagle County in Colorado sued the Transportation Board, indicating that both the up and downstream impacts - such as oil spills into the Colorado River or increased wildfire risk - were not sufficiently analyzed in the environmental impact statement completed on the project. American Whitewater has supported this litigation and advocated political leadership across Colorado to stop this project that would be harmful to our rivers.
American Whitewater has been involved and watching this project due to the potential impacts from increased hazardous train traffic along high quality recreational reaches of river such as the length of the Colorado in Colorado, the Price River in Utah, and South Boulder Creek. The development of this new railway has also led to concerns for the reopening of the Tennessee Pass line, further threatening the Eagle and Arkansas river. According to the project proponents, the national rail network through Colorado down to the Gulf Coast could see five fully loaded, 2-mile long trains creating an increased risk of fire due to derailment and spilling of combustible oil.
This decision of the court is a huge win for the effort to prevent this project from damaging rivers but it is by no means the end of our efforts. We continue to push for robust environmental review of project alternatives and for political action that would prevent the project indefinitely.
Image credit: Rapid Image Photography, the group at Gore Fest this year was able to support our efforts against the Uinta Basin Railway by taking part in a riverwide action against the project from Kremmling to Glenwood Springs.