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The Uinta Basin Railway proposal may go through, pending Forest Service approval

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Mike Enerio
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Unsplash

 

The Uinta Basin Railway has been proposed on and off since 1902, to export oil and gas products from the Uinta Basin. The current proposal is waiting on the US Forest Service to approve the planned route which would go through a roadless area of the Ashley National Forest.

The current railway proposal was introduced in 2019 by the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition, also known as SCIC which includes; Carbon, Daggett, Duchesne, Emery, San Juan, Sevier, and Uintah Counties. 

“The idea behind that is moving all kinds of products out of the Uinta basin and to national markets. And we see oil products and other goods and services using the rail”

 

Mike Mckee is the Executive Director of SCIC, and he, along with the coalition, hopes the railway will bring increased revenues to local governments and economies.

Currently, an environmental impact statement has been issued by the Surface Transportation Board, but SCIC is still waiting on Forest Service “right of way” approval, to move forward with construction. 

Thirty concerned environmental and conservation groups sent a letter six weeks ago to US Forest Service Chief Randy Moore, asking that the Forest Service not approve the right of way. Moore has yet to respond to the letter. On October 22, in their monthly meeting, SCIC communicated they had recently met with Moore and he was supportive of the project. Deeda Seed is a Senior Public Lands Campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups that signed the letter to Moore,

“This project is conservatively estimated to produce 53 million tons of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to emissions from six dirty coal plants. So it's definitely intended to contribute significantly to the climate crisis," said Seed.

SCIC argues that the economic benefits outweigh the environmental costs because the railway would quadruple oil and gas extraction and produce 350,000 barrels a day. 

Seed said that her organization is concerned not only by the potential carbon emissions but the implications for the impacted environments.

 

“This railway would dig up more than 400 Utah streams, strip bare or pave over 10,000 acres of wildlife habitat including crucial areas for pronghorn, mule deer and other large animals and it would impact sagebrush habitat”. 

 

Ellis Juhlin is a science reporter here at Utah Public Radio and a Master's Student at Utah State. She studies Ferruginous Hawk nestlings and the factors that influence their health. She loves our natural world and being part of wildlife research. Now, getting to communicate that kind of research to the UPR listeners through this position makes her love what she does even more. In her free time, you can find her outside on a trail with her partner Matt and her goofy pups Dodger and Finley. They love living in a place where there are year-round adventures to be had!