CBD Files Emergency Injunction to Stop Ruby Pipeline
Several counties in the four states crossed by Ruby Pipeline demand that El Paso Corp. pull out of the mitigation deal with WWP and ONDA of face litigation. Both conservation groups agreed to drop their previous opposition to the Ruby Pipeline route through endangered sage grouse habitat if El Paso would mitigate by purchasing grazing permits on land along the route. In addition, Center for Biological Diversity seeks emergency injunction to stop pipeline.
The latest from the Ruby Pipeline debates;
County commissions of the four states being crossed by El Paso's pipeline gathered to discuss their opposition to the mitigation deal between El Paso Corporation and Western Watersheds and ONDA that purchases grazing rights.
It seems from the most cynical perspective that El Paso Corporation was in such a hurry to get this pipeline into the ground that they needed to bribe some influential conservation groups for their support. The bribe was in the form of mitigation funds to purchase grazing rights above the pipeline. In the long term interests of El Paso, it makes sense to kick the ranchers off the land in case of an eventual pipeline leak and rupture, that many less lawsuits and out of court settlements with angry ranchers to worry about. Since BP will be sending their natural gas through the Ruby Pipeline, they are taking "preventative measures" to ensure that angry ranchers do not join forces with angry fisheries workers displaced by earlier BP accidents!!
It seems odd for WWP and ONDA to suddenly decide that their previous reasons for objecting to the Ruby Pipeline disappeared once the mitigation deal with El Paso was reached, though nothing changed in El Paso's construction plans of the pipeline to justify this new outlook by WWP and ONDA decision makers. The only change is that now cattle will not be grazing around or near the pipeline, which seems to benefit El Paso corporation the most by removing any future legal threats in the event of the pipeline leaking into the watershed and killing their cattle.
As an environmentalist it is my belief that issues should be handled individually, if there are objections to current grazing practices then these should be addressed with ranchers. If there are objections to the pipeline route, than these should be addressed with El Paso corporation. Purchasing grazing rights in a small limited linear tract near a pipeline will not solve the greater issues of poor grazing habits throughout the rest of the state. Nor will the lack of grazing cattle along a slight stretch of land protect the sagelands ecosystem from future pipeline leaks, ruptures, explosions and other accidents. The safety record for pipelines shows that accidents are a matter of WHEN, not IF!!
For all their deal making and muscle flexing WWP and ONDA have accomplished very little!!
The lack of the presence of cattle around the pipeline will NOT guarantee the long term safety of the sagelands ecosystem around the pipeline, and this should be the main concern!!
Here's updates from SLC Tribune;
"Counties threaten natural gas supplier with lawsuit."
By Christopher Smart
The Salt Lake Tribune
Updated Aug 12, 2010 10:38PM
"Representatives of a dozen counties in four Western states demanded Thursday that a large natural gas supplier back out of an agreement with environmental organizations or face a legal range war.
But officials of El Paso Corp., which is building the Ruby Pipeline from Wyoming to Oregon, said, no way.
County commissioners from Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and Oregon huddled in Salt Lake City on Thursday morning before issuing an ultimatum to the El Paso Corp.: Get out of a $22 million agreement with Western Watersheds Project and the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ODNA) or suffer the consequences, including lawsuits.
The Bureau of Land Management and Federal Energy Resource Commission and other federal agencies recently issued formal approval for El Paso to begin construction on the 680-mile pipeline from Opal, Wyo. to Malin, Ore. It would pass through Utah's Rich, Cache and Box Elder counties.
The counties supported the pipeline project until they discovered El Paso had cut a private deal with Western Watershed and ONDA. The commissioners have not seen the confidential agreement, but fear it would arm the environmental groups with money for lawsuits and even to lobby Congress to change grazing laws.
Further, they believe it would set a precedent for such "payoffs" every time a project on public lands comes up for federal approval.
Kent Connelly, a commissioner from Lincoln County, Wyo., characterized Western Watershed as an organization that buys up grazing permits and turns them over to wildlife. "They want to change the West back into sagebrush," Connelly said. "Getting a secret agreement with El Paso is not upfront and has a serious socio-economic impact on our county."
Lincoln County will sue the BLM in federal court to stop the pipeline, he said. He invited representatives of other counties to join the action.
Among five items the group of counties identified was withholding local conditional-use permits to halt construction if El Paso does not rescind the agreement.
Jim Cleary, representing El Paso, told the group that $15 million paid to Western Watersheds and $7 million paid to ONDA would not go into the general funds of those organizations. Rather, it will go into a nonprofit organization directed by Western Watersheds and El Paso and a third, neutral director to protect sagebrush habitat.
"It's not the agenda of the fund to stop grazing on public lands," he said.
Cleary did say, however, the funds could be used, among other things, to buy conservation easements, make land acquisitions and buy grazing permits from "willing buyers."
The payments were made to assuage the environmental organizations from protesting the pipeline, he said.
Construction already has begun on the pipeline. Cleary said it will pump millions into local economies, including $70 million in sales and use taxes; $280 million in property taxes in the first 10 years; and, at its peak construction,will provide $3.6 million in daily wages to 5,000 workers.
Debra Ellers, the Idaho director for Western Watershed and president of the new nonprofit fund, said that El Paso's money cannot be used for litigation, according to the agreement.
"We're always accused of litigating," she said. "Now we're trying to find a different way, and we're criticized anyway."
But Elko County Commissioner Sherie Eklund-Brown said the agreement between El Paso and Western Watershed is ethically outside the National Environmental Protection Act.
"When everybody is not at the table ... the public process has been violated."
csmart [at] sltrib.com
Group seeks injunction to block Ruby Pipeline
Updated Aug 20, 2010 10:17PM
"An environmental group is seeking an emergency injunction to block construction of a gas pipeline between Wyoming and Oregon.
The Center for Biological Diversity filed the motion Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco. The same group filed suit July 30, saying the Ruby Pipeline will cross more than 1,000 rivers and streams and harm a number of endangered fish species.
The $3 billion, 42-inch gas pipeline will export gas from Opal (oh-PAL') in western Wyoming, crossing northern Utah and northern Nevada before ending at Malin, Ore.
Preparatory work for the pipeline is has begun. El Paso Corp. plans to begin operating the pipeline in March."
above articles found here;
link to www.sltrib.com
Lawsuit from Center for Biological Diversity;
For Immediate Release, July 30, 2010
Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495
Lawsuit Filed to Stop 677-mile Ruby Pipeline and Protect Endangered Fish
"PORTLAND, Ore.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit today challenging 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 cause severe damage to rivers and streams, sensitive habitats for a host of fish and wildlife species and some of the most pristine lands in western North America," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center. "Instead of creating an entirely new path of destruction, an existing pipeline route should have been utilized."
The lawsuit, filed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, challenges the Bureau of Land Management's decision to issue rights of way on federal lands and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's review of the project's impacts on endangered species. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service'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 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission concluding there would be serious impacts to fish and other resources. The agency initially proposed several mitigation measures, but most were not included in its final review of the project.
"The pipeline will have serious impacts on nine endangered fish species, including the Lahontan cutthroat trout and Warner Creek sucker, as well as a host of other imperiled fish," said Greenwald. "The El Paso Corporation has not done enough to ensure the Ruby Pipeline won't jeopardize endangered 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 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 leases.
"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."
Today's challenge was filed in the Ninth Circuit because of a provision in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that bypasses district court for challenges to energy projects.
On Tuesday, the Center submitted a request for rehearing to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission raising the above issues as well as other concerns with approval of the pipeline. Those issues include 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. Consideration of the request and the legal challenge filed today will proceed concurrently."
CBD statement here;
contribute to this article
add comment to discussion