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The proposed Uinta Basin Railway earlier this month cleared its last major regulatory hurdle when the U.S. Forest Service dismissed an objection to a right-of-way it granted across 12 miles of mostly roadless land that's part of the Ashley National Forest in Utah.
The proposed railway has faced opposition from certain environmental groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity. The groups are fighting the oil-hauling railway because its operators intend to quadruple oil production in the Uinta Basin, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
The railway is expected to increase oil production in the basin by linking its oil fields to national rail networks. Most of the crude oil will travel through the Colorado Rockies for 200 miles to Gulf Coast refineries, center officials said in a press release.
Once the right-of-way is issued, railroad construction could begin next year, they said. The project proposal calls for construction of 88 miles of rail line.
“President Biden should be doing everything in his power to respond to the climate emergency, but he’s about to light one of the nation’s biggest carbon bombs,” said Deeda Seed with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is pouring another 5 billion gallons of oil on the fire every year and bulldozing a national forest in the process. It’s a horrifying step in the wrong direction.”
But in a letter to the lawyer representing the center and other environmental groups, Deputy Regional Forester Deborah Oakeson said the Forest Service's decision on the right-of-way was sound, the Tribune reported.
The Surface Transportation Board led the development and completion fo the final environmental impact statement, and its final decision on the railway project was approved in December 2021. When completed, Rio Grande Pacific Corp. will operate the line.