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U.S. Forest Service approves Uinta Basin railway line

Posted at 3:54 PM, Jul 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-15 10:22:16-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The U.S. Forest Service has approved the controversial Uinta Basin railway line, opening up energy exports from eastern Utah to other parts of the country much easier.

The agency approved a line through the Ashley National Forest to connect the region to other national rail lines.

"The rationale for this decision is that proposed project activities and facilities related to construction on NFS [National Forest Service] lands can be constructed and operated with minimal adverse impacts of concern to environmental resources and with minimal conflicts with LRMP [Land Resource Management Planning] standards and guidelines," the agency said in its decision.

Utah political leaders cheered the approval on Thursday.

"This is a huge victory that will get Utah energy to market faster, more cleanly, more safely, and will help the economies of eastern Utah," Governor Spencer Cox said in a statement. "State and local governments, the Ute Tribe, energy producers and rail companies have been making the argument for decades that improved access to the outside world will help the Basin diversify its economy. Without a doubt, this infrastructure will improve economic opportunities for individuals, families and businesses. We’re excited to see the potential of this region unleashed."

Sen. Mike Lee was also happy with it.

Senate President J. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said in a tweet that it would help lower gas prices.

But the rail line has faced controversy (and will still). Conservation groups have repeatedly objected to the rail line and its impacts on the environment. The Center for Biological Diversity has ongoing litigation on it, as is Eagle Co., Colo.

"The fight to stop this terrible environmentally damaging project is not over as the special use authorization hasn’t been issued yet," Deeda Seed, the public lands senior campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a text message to FOX 13 News. "And we’re suing because in addition to being an enormous boondoggle- we can’t afford to emit 53 million metric tons of additional carbon pollution per year which will exacerbate the drought, wildfires and speed up the death of Great Salt Lake."