The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Jay Lininger, (928) 853-9929

Center Challenges Arizona Gas Pipeline That Threatens Imperiled Fish


The Center for Biological Diversity today challenged federal regulators to stop a natural gas pipeline that would destroy critical habitat for the threatened loach minnow in the San Francisco River near Clifton, Ariz.

"The survival of the loach minnow was already in doubt
before this pipeline plan, which would severely damage important
habitat in the San Francisco River," said Jay Lininger, a Center
ecologist in Albuquerque. "The federal government needs to rethink this
pipeline and not place ill-considered energy development ahead of
imperiled fish."

The pipeline was laid in 1967 to serve an open-pit copper mine near Morenci, Ariz.

Erosion of the river bank and resulting exposure of the buried pipes prompted the El Paso Corporation
in July to apply for permission from the federal government to replace
three pipeline segments, spread rock, and construct a permanent
concrete structure within the streambed and floodplain of the San
Francisco River.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a biological opinion
in July stating that El Paso's plan will (1) remove critical habitat
essential to the survival and recovery of the loach minnow by
destroying a portion of the river floodplain; and (2) disturb fish by
taking water out of the channel and digging up the streambed.

Today's petition requests that the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission reconsider its Sept. 16 approval of El Paso's
application. It alleges that the commission failed to consider
alternatives, including removing the pipeline.

El Paso recently won approval from federal regulators to
construct a separate 677-mile pipeline connecting gas fields in
Wyoming to pipes in Oregon that feed markets in California. The Center
in July filed a lawsuit
challenging the Ruby pipeline in the U.S. Court of Appeals in San
Francisco, citing impacts to nine species of endangered fish where the
line would cross rivers and streams.

"The San Francisco River is one of many examples across
the West where gas pipelines can jeopardize endangered fishes,"
Lininger said.

The loach minnow, a native to Arizona and New Mexico,
was placed on the endangered species list in 1986. It remains
threatened by livestock grazing, mining, logging, groundwater pumping,
water diversion and nonnative species.

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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