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State Leaders Ask Trump Administration To Fast-Track Controversial Water Pipeline

Judy Fahys
I-15 crosses the Virgin River, the main water source for southwestern Utah, in St. George. The controversial pipeline add to the water supply for a fast-growing corner of the state.

Utah leaders are prodding the Trump administration to expedite the Lake Powell Pipeline. They’re not asking for money but to speed up governmental approval.

All six members of Utah’s congressional delegation sent a letter to the White House Monday. They’re asking to have the pipeline to be declared a “high-priority infrastructure project.” That label would allow the billion-dollar-plus Lake Powell Pipeline to be fast-tracked through environmental reviews and approvals, thanks to an executive order President Trump signed just a few days after being sworn into office.

“There’s a mountain of environmental permitting that goes on a project like this,” says Mike Styler, director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources. “And sometimes agencies kinda move at a snail’s pace. And, if they were given some incentive to move a little faster, that would be great.”

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert made the same request in February. Now the delegation’s promising the project will create 90,000 jobs and generate $19 billion in sales-tax revenue.

Zach Frankel, who leads the Utah Rivers Council, says proponents are understating the costs and overstating the benefits, including the need for the pipeline.

“Unfortunately, they have created their own facts and their own version of information around the Lake Powell Pipeline,” he says.

The state has spent a decade and $32 million so far to assemble an application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. But the in-depth environmental review hasn’t started yet because of delays requested by the state.

Letters from Utah Delegation, Governor on Lake Powell Pipeline by Judy Fahys on Scribd

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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