For Immediate Release, July 27, 2010
Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495
Regulators Petitioned to Withdraw Approval of 677-mile Ruby Pipeline to Avoid Killing Endangered Fish
PORTLAND, Ore.— The Center for Biological Diversity today asked federal regulators to withdraw their approval of the 677-mile “Ruby” natural gas pipeline, which would cut across some of the most pristine and remote lands in Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and California. The pipeline will cross more than 1,000 rivers and streams, affecting crucial habitat for several endangered fish species, and will use more than 400 million gallons of water over the next several years from an increasingly arid area.
“The Ruby Pipeline will have disastrous environmental and social consequences across a wide swath of the West,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center. “It’s not too late to stop this terrible project from moving forward.”
The request to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission argues that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s review of the project’s affect on endangered fish was flawed. According to the agency’s biological opinion and other documents, the pipeline will have serious impacts on several endangered fish species, including the Lahontan cutthroat trout, Warner Creek sucker, Lost River sucker, Colorado pikeminnow and others. The pipeline, which would be built by the El Paso Corporation, would cross 209 streams that serve as habitat for these fish. The work could also include blasting through 143 streams to lay the pipeline and depleting flows with its substantial use of water.
In 2008, the Fish and Wildlife Service sent a letter to the Commission concluding there would be serious impacts to fish and other resources and proposing several mitigations. Most of these improvements, however, were not included in the agency’s final review of the project.
“This pipeline will cause serious harm to endangered fish like the Lahontan cutthroat trout,” said Greenwald. “On top of that, the El Paso Corporation has cut corners and failed to adopt adequate mitigation for fish.”
In a particularly glaring error, the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to consider the potential for a pipeline rupture at stream crossings along the route. Instead, the biological opinion for the project concluded that a rupture in the Ruby Pipeline “would not be reasonably likely to occur,” and therefore “the Service will not address pipeline ruptures.”
“If there’s one lesson we should have learned from the Gulf disaster, it’s that things can and do go wrong, particularly when regulatory agencies don’t do their jobs,” said Greenwald. “If the pipeline ruptures at a stream crossing, it could have devastating consequences for these endangered fish and other stream life.”
Indeed, pipelines constructed by El Paso Corporation have ruptured before, including one in Bushland, Texas, where three people were hurt, and another in Carlsbad, N.M., where 12 people were killed. Neither rupture was discussed in Fish and Wildlife’s biological opinion. One of the companies that has contracted to use the pipeline is BP.
The El Paso Corporation has worked out an agreement with a number of conservation organizations that establishes a fund to protect sage grouse habitat and purchase grazing rights.
“Although the El Paso Corporation has taken steps to reduce some of the tremendous impacts of the Ruby Pipeline on the environment, serious concerns remain,” said Greenwald. “More needs to be done to ensure the pipeline doesn’t drive endangered fish to extinction.”
The request for rehearing points to a number of other problems with approval of the pipeline as well, including the Bureau of Land Management’s failure to properly analyze the environmental impacts of rights-of-way across federal lands; the Commission’s failure to protect cultural resources and historic sites that are protected under the National Historic Preservation Act; an improper determination by the Fish and Wildlife Service that the use of roads on the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge is compatible with the refuge’s mission to protect wildlife; and a failure to ensure that the pipeline will not impact bald and golden eagles.
The Ruby Pipeline in relation to conservation populations of the endangered Lahontan cutthroat trout.
The entire route of the Ruby Pipeline from the final environmental impact statement.