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Groups Plan to Sue Feds Over Utah Oil-Shale Project

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Thursday, February 28, 2019   

VERNAL, Utah – A coalition of conservation groups plans to sue the Trump administration over plans to construct a commercial oil-shale development in Utah's Uintah Basin.

The groups claim the planned Enefit project would drain billions of gallons of water from the upper Colorado River Basin, threaten endangered species and generate greenhouse-gas pollution.

Taylor McKinnon, senior public-lands campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity, says the administration already has approved the rights-of-way for pipelines and power lines for the massive strip-mining operation.

"This project is a ubiquitously bad idea," McKinnon insists. "It's proposing to pull water out of the Colorado River – at a time when we're facing historic shortages – to develop a high-carbon fuel, in a time when climate change is causing dramatic declines and flows in the Colorado River. "

The coalition claims that permits issued for the project ignore its potential impact on several species of endangered fish. It accuses the federal government of studying only the water depletion necessary to build the pipeline, not to operate it.

According to McKinnon, over the 30-year life of the project, more than 10,000 acre-feet of water would be taken each year from the Green River, which is part of the Colorado's upper basin.

He says previous attempts to develop shale-oil production in the western U.S. have failed, in part because it's an inefficient way to produce energy.

"It requires a tremendous amount of energy to mine, process and then transport that oil," he explains. "The net result is that the energy needed to produce a barrel of oil-shale oil is vastly higher than conventional oil."

McKinnon says the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have 60 days to comply with the Endangered Species Act or the coalition will go forward with the suit.

"Our lawsuit says they need to go back and look at the impacts – not just of constructing the pipeline, but actually operating the pipeline and taking all of that water out of the Green River," he adds.

Other groups in the coalition include Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club, Living Rivers, Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council.




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