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BLM to Reissue Right-of-Way for Ruby Pipeline

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said it plans to reissue the right-of-way (ROW) for Kinder Morgan Inc.'s Ruby Pipeline after determining through a court-ordered review that the original mitigation measures required to protect wildlife in the project area were "adequate."

In October 2012, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the BLM and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) had violated the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act when they approved the Ruby Pipeline, a 678-mile natural gas pipeline that is in service from Wyoming to Oregon (see Daily GPI,Oct. 24, 2012).

The appeals court ruling required the agencies to develop additional mitigation measures, with the FWS outlining ways to protect nine endangered fish species and the BLM analyzing the pipeline's impact on sagebrush, habitat of the sage grouse.

But on Thursday, the BLM issued a 152-page final supplemental environmental impactstatement (SEIS) on the Ruby Pipeline Project and published a record of decision for the project in Thursday's edition of the Federal Register.

"The BLM concludes that [the original] mitigation measures are adequate and additional mitigation measures are not required," the agency said in the Federal Register. It added that the SEIS would "serve as the foundation" for reissuing the ROW for the pipeline.

BLM Project Manager Mark Mackiewicz told NGI the agency could reissue the ROW as early as next week.

The BLM first authorized the ROW for the 42-inch diameter Ruby Pipeline in July 2010. Construction began that summer and took one year to complete. The pipeline traverses about 368 miles of federal land and connects Opal, WY, with Malin, OR, which is near the California border. The pipeline entered service on July 28, 2011.

Amy Atwood, attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), one of the environmental groups that had filed the appeals court lawsuit, told NGI that it was considering its legal options.

"We're glad that our litigation resulted in BLM going back and taking another look at the pipeline and its impacts," Atwood said Friday. "We think that the right thing to do would have been to not build the pipeline. We prevailed on several legal claims and believe that the pipeline was built in the interim unlawfully.

"However, we would have liked to have seen BLM require additional mitigation for the impacts that the pipeline had -- particularly the long-term, probably permanent, impacts like the loss of 10,000 acres of sagebrush habitat. Unfortunately, BLM has been more willing to do the bidding of private industry than it has to further the interests of public lands and the habitat that they provide."

Other environmental groups that had filed suit include Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club and Great Basin Resource Watch. Two Native American groups -- the Summit Lake Paiute Tribe and the Fort Bidwell Indian Community -- and a group called the Coalition of Local Governments, were also plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The BLM said it consulted with the Summit Lake Paiute Tribe six times this year and met with tribal leaders at the Fort Bidwell Indian Reservation in July.

According to the CBD, the Ruby Pipeline affects five endangered fish: the Lahontan cutthroat trout, Warner sucker, Lost River sucker, shortnose sucker and Modoc sucker. The group added that four endangered fish in the Colorado River -- the Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, razorback sucker and bonytail chub -- were impacted by the withdrawal of more than 300 million gallons of water for dust abatement and hydrostatic testing.

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