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Senator Bennet, Congressman Neguse  Applaud D.C. Circuit Court Decision

On Friday, August 18,  the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overruled the Surface Transportation Board (STB) approval of the Uinta Basin Railway Project. Senator Michael Bennet and Congressman Joe Neguse, who led the effort in Washington to halt the project without supplemental review, are celebrating the news.

They issued this joint statement Friday afternoon:

“This ruling is excellent news. The approval process for the Uinta Basin Railway Project has been gravely insufficient and did not properly account for the project’s full risks to Colorado’s communities, water, and environment. A new review must account for all harmful effects of this project on our state, including potential oil spills along the Colorado River and increased wildfire risk. An oil train derailment in the headwaters of the Colorado River would be catastrophic — not only to Colorado, but the 40 million Americans who rely on it.

“We’re grateful for the leadership of Eagle County and the many organizations and local officials around Colorado who made their voices heard.”

Uinta Basin Railway Project Represented Environmental Risks Across the State’s River Basins

In April, Bennet, Neguse, and local leaders highlighted the dangers of the Uinta Basin Railway Project to Coloradans and to the entire Colorado River Basin from the banks of the Colorado River.

Long before that, county-level leaders across several central mountain areas, including Chaffee County, had began to sound the environmental alarm. They pointed out that the derailment of trainloads of heated waxy crude oil from Utah’s Uinta Basin being shipped by rail through Colorado’s pristine mountain river valleys toward the Gulf Coast would be both an environmental and economic disaster.

While the Colorado River Basin is proposed as the direct route, that river basin has direct connections from the Fry-Ark exchange agreements with the Arkansas River. Route discussion early on also contemplated an undetermined use of the rail route over the Tennessee Pass from Lake County into Chaffee County. Environmental disaster scenarios of train derailments along the river basins were almost too terrifying to contemplate.

In March, Bennet and Neguse urged the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Region 8 Administrator to conduct a supplemental review of the project as prior EPA reviews focused solely on its risks to Utah.

Earlier that month, Bennet, Neguse, and U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper urged U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to consider the risks of approving tax-exempt private activity bonds or any other federal financing mechanisms to fund the project.

Mindful of their concerned audience in Colorado, Bennet, and Neguse also called on U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to suspend the Special Use Authorization for the project until a supplemental review is conducted.

In July 2022, Bennet and Neguse called on the Biden Administration’s Council on Environmental Quality to undertake an additional comprehensive review to determine whether previous environmental and risk analyses fully considered the effects of the railway project on Colorado’s communities, watersheds, and forests.

Featured photo: AVV file photo.