RENO, Nev. (AP) — Federal land managers intend to reissue a right of way for a 678-mile mile natural gas pipeline from Wyoming to Oregon now that government scientists have completed a second environmental review they say corrects deficiencies in the first one struck down by a U.S. appeals court.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management published a new record of decision in the Federal Register on Thursday and issued a revised final supplemental environmental impact statement for Kinder Morgan's Ruby Pipeline.
Environmentalists who filed a lawsuit in an unsuccessful effort to block construction of the pipeline built in 2010 said they were reviewing the new documents but still found them to be inadequate and will consider further legal action.
"This was an illegal pipeline that never should have been built," said Amy Atwood, senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, which brought the original lawsuit along with Defenders of Wildlife and Summit Lake Paiute Tribe in northwest Nevada.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled in the groups' favor in October 2012, concluding that BLM and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hadn't done enough to ensure protection of the threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout and other rare fish in Wyoming, northern Utah, northern Nevada and southern Oregon.
It also agreed with their claims the agency had failed to provide enough information about the cumulative loss of sagebrush habitat that the sage grouse and other species depend upon in the Great Basin and high desert.
BLM said in issuing the new review Thursday it includes more detailed information about cumulative habitat loss. But agency officials said they were sticking to their original conclusion that mitigation measures required as part of the right of way are sufficient to offset the significant environmental impact anticipated for a number of species, including the sage grouse and the fish.
"The direct and indirect impacts of the project remain the same," BLM said in the final supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) issued Thursday. "Because there are not impacts in excess of those discussed in the final EIS, no additional mitigation is described" in the new review.
The pipeline has been transporting natural gas from the Rocky Mountain area to the Pacific Northwest and Northern California since July 2011. It runs from Opal, Wyo., south of Logan, Utah, into Nevada north of Elko and Winnemucca before terminating in Opal, Ore., near the California line.
Ruby Pipeline LLC voluntarily agreed to a dozen conservation measures intended to mitigate the impacts on the fish, including reseeding and replanting shrubs in disturbed areas, constructing fish migration barriers and restoring riparian vegetation along streams.
Richard Wheatley, a spokesman for Morgan Kinder in Houston, said in an email to The Associated Press after BLM's announcement Thursday, "We are pleased with the result."
Atwood, based in Portland, Ore., questioned how much effort the BLM put into the supplemental review ordered by the appellate court.
"They are using American taxpayers' money to do the bidding for big business with little regard for the public interest," she told AP on Thursday.
"I'm sure there was some additional regulation of it by BLM that would not have happened without our case. But their message, frankly, is they are going to continue to do business as usual until forced to do otherwise."