Environmental groups to challenge Trump administration approval of Utah pipelines

Environmental groups to challenge Trump administration approval of Utah pipelines

Conservationists are planning a legal challenge to the Trump administration’s decision to allow a company to build transmission lines and pipelines on federal lands in Utah.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and five other environmental groups on Tuesday filed an intent to sue, challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s September decision to allow an Estonia based company to start construction of the pipelines in Utah’s Uintah Basin.

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The Trump administration’s green-lit plan would let Enefit American Oil construct the U.S.’s first commercial-scale oil shale development if it were to become operational.

Part of the operations would include constructing three pipelines and two transmission lines across federal public lands to move processed oil from the shale facility to various utilities.

The environmental groups argue that the plan near the Colorado border would drain billions of gallons of water from the Green River and could threaten endangered wildlife as well as contribute a large amount to greenhouse gas emissions.

The groups argue in their filing that the decision would violate the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and that BLM did not “adequately analyze how BLM’s approval of the rights-of-way — including indirect effects, the effects of interrelated or interdependent actions, and cumulative effects — would affect four endangered fish species, two rare plant species, and their critical habitat.”

The filing argues that the water pipeline approved by BLM would also “enable removal of up to 10,867 acre-feet per year of water from the Green River” for use at the oil shale facility.

“This massive new diversion from the Green River would severely harm four endangered Upper Colorado River fish species and their critical habitat,” read the filing.

The group told the Interior Department it must undertake a new consultation to determine “whether BLM’s action is likely to jeopardize the four endangered Upper Colorado River fish species and the two penstemon species, or destroy or adversely modify their habitat.”

“This project would be a disaster for the climate, the Colorado River and endangered species,” said Taylor McKinnon, a senior campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement. “Draining rivers to mine high-carbon fossil fuels will accelerate climate change that’s already drying the Colorado River Basin. The West needs to chart a sustainable future, but the Trump administration is paving the road to catastrophe.”

An Interior spokesperson said the agency does not comment on ongoing litigation.

The agency has two months to respond before the groups say they will file a formal lawsuit.