Regulators Petitioned to Withdraw Approval of 677-mile Ruby Pipeline to Avoid Killing Endangered Fish

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Regulators Petitioned to Withdraw Approval of 677-mile Ruby Pipeline to Avoid Killing Endangered Fish

PORTLAND, OR - The Center for Biological Diversity today asked federal regulators
to withdraw their approval of the 677-mile "Ruby" natural gas pipeline,
which would cut across some of the most pristine and remote lands in
Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and California. The pipeline will cross
more than 1,000 rivers and streams, affecting crucial habitat for
several endangered fish species, and will use more than 400 million
gallons of water over the next several years from an increasingly arid
area.

"The Ruby Pipeline will have disastrous environmental
and social consequences across a wide swath of the West," said Noah
Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center. "It's not
too late to stop this terrible project from moving forward."  

The request
to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission argues that the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service's review of the project's affect on endangered
fish was flawed. According to the agency's biological opinion and other
documents, the pipeline will have serious impacts on several
endangered fish species, including the Lahontan cutthroat trout, Warner
Creek sucker, Lost River sucker, Colorado pikeminnow and others. The
pipeline, which would be built by the El Paso Corporation, would cross
209 streams that serve as habitat for these fish. The work could also
include blasting through 143 streams to lay the pipeline and depleting
flows with its substantial use of water.

In 2008, the Fish and Wildlife Service sent a letter
to the Commission concluding there would be serious impacts to fish
and other resources and proposing several mitigations. Most of these
improvements, however, were not included in the agency's final review
of the project.

"This pipeline will cause serious harm to endangered
fish like the Lahontan cutthroat trout," said Greenwald. "On top of
that, the El Paso Corporation has cut corners and failed to adopt
adequate mitigation for fish." 

In a particularly glaring error, the Fish and Wildlife
Service failed to consider the potential for a pipeline rupture at
stream crossings along the route. Instead, the biological opinion for
the project concluded that a rupture in the Ruby Pipeline "would not be
reasonably likely to occur," and therefore "the Service will not
address pipeline ruptures." 

"If there's one lesson we should have learned from the
Gulf disaster, it's that things can and do go wrong, particularly when
regulatory agencies don't do their jobs," said Greenwald. "If the
pipeline ruptures at a stream crossing, it could have devastating
consequences for these endangered fish and other stream life." 

Indeed, pipelines constructed by El Paso Corporation
have ruptured before, including one in Bushland, Texas, where three
people were hurt, and another in Carlsbad, N.M., where 12 people were
killed. Neither rupture was discussed in Fish and Wildlife's biological
opinion. One of the companies that has contracted to use the pipeline
is BP.

The El Paso Corporation has worked out an agreement with
a number of conservation organizations that establishes a fund to
protect sage grouse habitat and purchase grazing rights.

"Although the El Paso Corporation has taken steps to
reduce some of the tremendous impacts of the Ruby Pipeline on the
environment, serious concerns remain," said Greenwald. "More needs to
be done to ensure the pipeline doesn't drive endangered fish to
extinction."              

The request for rehearing points to a number of other
problems with approval of the pipeline as well, including the Bureau of
Land Management's failure to properly analyze the environmental
impacts of rights-of-way across federal lands; the Commission's failure
to protect cultural resources and historic sites that are protected
under the National Historic Preservation Act; an improper determination
by the Fish and Wildlife Service that the use of roads on the Sheldon
National Wildlife Refuge is compatible with the refuge's mission to
protect wildlife; and a failure to ensure that the pipeline will not
impact bald and golden eagles.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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