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Environmental Groups Intend To Sue Over Oil Shale Development, Citing Danger To Fish

USFWS Mountain-Prairie
Creative Commons BY 2.0
USFWS Biologist Doug Osmundsen with an endangered Colorado pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus lucius), one of the species that the seven environmental groups worry will be impacted by the infrastructure needed for oil shale development.

The Estonian company Enefit had hoped to install Utah's first oil shale development, but the fate of the project may be in jeopardy since a coalition of seven different environmental groups issued a notice of intent to sue over the proposed project in eastern Utah. 

The company planned to mine and process 50,000 barrels of oil shale a day. None of their oil shales would come from federal land, but the infrastructure needed to support their mining operations would. And the impacts of infrastructure required, which includes a 19-mile water pipeline, is a central concern of the seven environmental groups opposing the project.

“At the very least this project would require piping about 10,000 acre-feet annually from the Green River to the mine site in the Uintah Basin," said Taylor McKinnon,  public lands campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity. "That’s a problem because the Colorado River system is already drying, already overallocated, and we’re already facing historic shortages. The Green River is the cradle for endangered fish recovery. Those fish need that water.”

The Center for Biological Diversity, along with six other groups, issued a notice of intent to sue the fish and wildlife administration and the BLM, stating that the water pipeline could harm recovery efforts for endangered native fish like the Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, humpback chub and bonytail chub.

“If the project goes through and the water is removed from the Green River then it’s going to be one more factor working against endangered fish recovery," McKinnon said. "It’s going to further compromise manager’s ability to provide for recovery floods – minimum base flows in the summer – and the spring flooding flows that provide for nursery habitat those fish need to recover.”

The federal government has until April 27 to respond to the notice from the seven environmental groups.