Ruby Pipeline project to get green light after review

Nov 29, 2013

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) published a new record of decision in the Federal Register last week and issued a revised final supplemental environmental impact statement for the controversial Kinder Morgan’s Ruby Pipeline.

Environmentalist groups filed, unsuccessfully, a lawsuit in an effort to block its construction in 2010, and are still not happy with the outcome of the recent review.

“This was an illegal pipeline that never should have been built,” Amy Atwood, Senior Attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, told reporters. The group filed the original lawsuit along with Defenders of Wildlife and Summit Lake Paiute Tribe in northwest Nevada.

But BLM announced the availability of the Record of Decision (ROD) and Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (Final SEIS) for the Ruby Pipeline Project in favor of moving the project forward.

The ROD documents BLM’s intention to reissue the right-of-way granted to Ruby Pipeline. The decision is based on the analysis contained in the Final EIS, the Draft SEIS, and Final SEIS for the Ruby Pipeline Project. It also relies on the revision to the June 8, 2010, Biological Opinion for the Ruby Pipeline Project (Revised BiOp) prepared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The ROD and Final SEIS have been prepared in response to an October, 2012, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Decision.

On June 10, 2010, BLM signed a ROD and Right-of- Way Grant (ROW) for the 678-mile interstate natural gas pipeline that crosses 368 miles of Federal land beginning near Opal, WY, and traveling through northern Utah and northern Nevada, ending near Malin, OR. The pipeline has been transporting natural gas from the Rocky Mountain area to the Pacific Northwest and Northern California since July, 2011.

In October, 2012, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a challenge brought by petitioners Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife et al., and Summit Lake Paiute Tribe that the FWS’s Biological Opinion (BiOp) and its accompanying incidental take statement are arbitrary and capricious. Specifically, the BiOp’s “no jeopardy” and “no adverse modification” determinations rely on protective measures that are not enforceable under the Endangered Species Act, and the BiOp did not take into account the potential impacts of withdrawing 337.8 million gallons of groundwater along the pipeline.

The October ruling vacated the FWS’s BiOp, sending it back to the agency for revision, and vacated the BLM ROD because it was based on the BiOp. The ruling also remanded to the BLM to undertake a revised cumulative effects analysis as it relates to the cumulative loss of sagebrush steppe habitat.

BLM initiated the SEIS for the project in response to the legal battle.

“The direct and indirect impacts of the project remain the same,” BLM said in the final SEIS issued last week. “Because there are not impacts in excess of those discussed in the final EIS, no additional mitigation is described” in the new review.

BLM said the SEIS included more detailed information about cumulative habitat loss. But agency officials still concluded that the mitigation measures required as part of the right of way are sufficient to offset the significant environmental impact anticipated for a number of species, including the sage grouse and the fish.

The BLM issued a Notice of Availability of the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Ruby Pipeline Project on July 5, 2013. The release of the Draft SEIS initiated a formal 45-day public comment period that ended on August 19, 2013.

The BLM received 31submissions from the public, agencies, tribes, organizations and businesses during the comment period. Comments on the Draft SEIS received from the public and resulting from internal BLM review were considered and incorporated as appropriate into the Final EIS. Public comments resulted in the addition of clarifying text, but did not significantly change the analysis or the proposed decisions.

The pipeline has been constructed and is currently operational. It includes an approximately 678-mile long, 42-inch diameter interstate natural gas pipeline that crosses 368 miles of federal land beginning near Opal, WY, extends through northern Utah and northern Nevada, and terminates near Malin, OR.

The ROD and Final SEIS may be viewed at: http:// nepa/ruby_pipeline_project. html Copies of the ROD and Final SEIS are also available for review at the following locations:

• BLM Kemmerer Field Office, 312 Highway 189 North, Kemmerer, WY;

• BLM Salt Lake Field Of fice, 2370 South 2300 West, Salt Lake City, UT;

• BLM Elko District Office, 3900 East Idaho Street, Elko, NV;

• BLM Winnemucca District Office, 5100 East Winnemucca Boulevard, Winnemucca, NV;

• BLM Lakeview District Office, 1301 South G Street, Lakeview, OR;

• BLM Klamath Falls Resource Area Office, 2795 South Anderson Avenue, Suite 25, Klamath Falls, OR;

• BLM Surprise Field Office, 602 Cressler Street, Cedarville, CA.

• Additional locations where printed hard copies of the ROD and Final SEIS can be viewed can be found on the project website http://www. ruby_pipeline_project.html or by contacting the project manager.

Instructions for filing an appeal of this decision are described in the ROD. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor