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Uinta Basin Railway Would Require Significant Mitigation To Offset Negative Environmental Impacts, Final Review Says

Hazy canyon view at Dinosaur National Monument. Poor air quality and pollution in the area
Melissa Kopka/Getty Images/iStockphoto
Hazy canyon view at Dinosaur National Monument. Poor air quality and pollution in the area

The final environmental review of a proposed railway in Utah’s Uinta Basin was released Friday. The proposed project would transport oil out of the region.

The environmental impact statement finds there could be adverse impacts on water resources, wildlife habitat, land use and more. The document also recommends mitigation measures, which include things like designing structures to minimize flooding and using water to make sure dust stays out of the atmosphere during construction.

Deeda Seed, a public lands senior campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity, said a project that could increase oil production doesn’t make sense.

“This railway is intended to quadruple oil extraction from the Uinta Basin and this final EIS came out on the day when Northern Utah had the worst air quality in the world,” she said.

Seed also pointed to a recent dire report that found climate change is worsening in large part because of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“We can't continue to have these kinds of [oil and gas] projects move forward given the climate crisis that we're in,” Seed added.

The Seven County Infrastructure Coalition is proposing the railway. The group is made up of the counties in “resource-rich” Eastern Utah. They said the Uinta Basin railway would increase economic development in the area.

They did not respond to KUER’s requests for comment.

The coalition and other state agencies are also in the midst of a lawsuit related to the railway, which was brought forward by the Center for Biological Diversity. They claim the $30 million in funds that have gone toward the project are a misuse of oil and mining royalties. Arguments were heard by a Utah district court judge last week.

The project still needs to be approved by an independent federal agency, which will take the final EIS into consideration.

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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