A Portland, OR-based environmental group is seeking to stop construction of El Paso Corp.'s Ruby Pipeline on the grounds that it would "cut across some of the most pristine and remote lands in Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and Oregon."
The Center for Biological Diversity, which is seeking an injunction to stop construction, said the Ruby project would "trench through more than 1,000 rivers and streams, acutely affecting endangered fish species and fish habitat. It will use more than 400 million gallons of water over the next several years from an arid region."
El Paso spokesman Richard Wheatley said the company is reviewing the group's motion for an injunction. Construction of Ruby was approved earlier this month (see Daily GPI, Aug. 3). Recently, county commissioners in the West charged that environmental concessions made by El Paso for the Ruby project will jeopardize access to grazing lands (see Daily GPI, Aug. 16).
"Construction of the Ruby Pipeline should be stopped until questions about its impact on endangered fish can be answered," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at the center. "The rush to build this pipeline is precluding options with lower impacts on endangered fish and other resources."
Late last month the center filed a lawsuit in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, challenging the Bureau of Land Management's decision to issue rights of way on federal lands for the project, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's review of the project's impacts on endangered species.
According to Fish and Wildlife's biological opinion and other documents, the pipeline will have serious impacts on several endangered fish species, including the Lahontan cutthroat trout and Warner Creek sucker, the center said. "Yet the Service relied on Ruby's voluntary mitigation measures, which are not enforceable, in order to find the pipeline's impacts to be acceptable."
The pipeline will have serious impacts on the Lahontan cutthroat trout and Warner Creek sucker, as well as a host of other imperiled fish, said Greenwald. "The El Paso Corp. has not done enough to ensure the Ruby Pipeline won't jeopardize these highly endangered fish, which have been the subjects of many years of recovery efforts."
The center said the pipeline will cross 209 streams that serve as habitat for endangered fish. These crossings involve trenching through the stream channel, including, in many cases, blasting.
"Instead of creating an entirely new path of destruction, an existing pipeline route should have been utilized for this project. But because it wasn't, mitigation measures and less-damaging trenching methods must be required of El Paso," Greenwald said.
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