For Immediate Release, October 22, 2012
Contact: Amy Atwood, (503) 504-5660
Federal Appeals Court Says More Protections Needed for Endangered Fish Along Ruby Pipeline Route
PORTLAND, Ore.— The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated federal law — both the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act — in approving the 700-mile Ruby pipeline from natural gas fields in Wyoming to southern Oregon. The decision requires the Fish and Wildlife Service to prepare a new “biological opinion” requiring additional mitigation for nine endangered fish species; it requires the Bureau to prepare a new analysis of the pipeline’s cumulative effects on sensitive sagebrush.
“We wish the Ruby pipeline had never been built, but since it was, it’s crucial that everything possible is done to minimize harm to the endangered fish that live along its route,” said Amy Atwood, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, which appealed the decision to approve the pipeline to the 9th Circuit. “With this victory, these rare fish will be better protected, and the public won’t have to bear the whole cost of the pipeline’s destructive impacts.”
Constructed in 2010, the 700-mile Ruby pipeline cuts across hundreds of streams in Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and Oregon, directly affecting five endangered fish: the Lahontan cutthroat trout, Warner sucker, Lost River sucker, shortnose sucker and Modoc sucker. By pumping more than 300 million gallons of water for use in dust abatement and “hydrostatic testing,” the pipeline also affected four endangered Colorado River fish, the Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, razorback sucker and bonytail chub.
“The Ruby gas pipeline scarred hundreds of miles of sagebrush habitats, unnecessarily degrading and fragmenting wildlife habitats and streams,” said Rose Strickland, a Nevada conservationist. “Weak and ineffective federal restoration and mitigation requirements must be strengthened and enforced until successfully met.”
Although the pipeline builder promised voluntary mitigations to address impacts to fish, the mitigations were not required by the current biological opinion and were not fully funded. The court concluded that relying on voluntary measures that may or may not occur is a clear violation of the law. It also concluded that Ruby and the Fish and Wildlife Service had failed to consider or mitigate the impacts of withdrawing millions of gallons of groundwater.
In addition to the Center’s appeal, a coalition of environmental groups also appealed the pipeline approvals to the Ninth Circuit. With staff attorneys from the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife, the petitioners were represented by Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal, a Washington, D.C.-based, public-interest law firm.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 450,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places