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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Federal court pauses Uinta crude-by-rail line construction


Editor's note: This story has been updated with a comment from Uinta Basin Railway.

A federal appeals court on Aug. 18 sent back to the Surface Board Transportation its approval of the proposed 80-mile Uinta Basin Railway line in the Uinta Basin in Utah.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia partially vacated the STB’s decision, finding the board didn’t adequately assess potential environmental harms and wildfire risks that could result from large volumes of crude oil that would be shipped on the line through Colorado on their way to Gulf Coast refineries. 

 The STB in December 2021 granted final approval for an exemption sought by the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition in Utah to construct and operate the Uinta Basin Railway. 

Issued by Judge Robert Wilkins, the ruling grants in part a petition filed by Eagle County in Colorado against the STB’s approval of the railway’s construction, and the environmental impact statement supporting the approval.

Eagle County was joined by five environmental groups in suing to block the project, which is backed by a public-private partnership between Utah county governments and industry, Colorado News Online reported

Wilkins granted the petitions in part, denied them in part, vacated the underlying order as well as the environmental impact statement and the biological impact opinion in part, and sent it back to the STB for further proceedings. 

The ruling can be read here.

In a statement posted on social media, Uinta Basin Railway officials said they remain committed to building and operating the railway.

"We firmly believe that the railway’s environmental impact statement contains appropriate and thorough analysis of the highlighted concerns, as it stands today. Nonetheless, we are ready, willing and capable of working with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to ensure additional reviews and the project’s next steps proceed without further delay," they said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 8/21/2023