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Feds “Dismiss” Permit Application for Flaming Gorge Pipeline

In a major victory for conservation groups in the Southwest U.S., on Friday, February 24th, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) “dismissed” the permit application for the Flaming Gorge Pipeline.

FERC ruled the application was premature, saying:  “This pipeline does not currently exist, and Wyco’s application does not provide any information about the timeline for seeking and obtaining the necessary authorizations for the construction and operation of such a pipeline.”  FERC’s dismissal letter is posted here.

Conservationists associated with the Save the Colorado River campaign — the “Colorado River Protection Coalition” — celebrated the ruling in the press release below:

For Immediate Release:
February 23, 2012
Contacts:
McCrystie Adams, Earthjustice, 303-623-9466
Steve Jones, Wyoming Outdoor Council, 307-332-7031 ext 12
Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, 928-310-6713
John Spahr, Sierra Club, 307-732-0028
Gary Wockner, Save the Poudre: Poudre Waterkeeper, 970-218-8310
John Weisheit, Living Rivers – Colorado Riverkeeper, 435-259-1063
Zach Frankel, Utah Rivers Council, 801-699-1856
Duane Short, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, 307-742-7978
Warren Rider, Rocky Mountain Wild, 970-385-9833
Jane Whalen, Citizens for Dixie’s Future, 435-635-2133
Michael Kellett, Glen Canyon Institute, 801-363-4450

Flaming Gorge Pipeline Blocked
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission says no to unbuildable scheme

Denver, CO – Today, a scheme to build the proposed Flaming Gorge Pipeline—one of the biggest, most environmentally damaging water projects in the history of the western United States—was dismissed by a federal agency.   The Pipeline would have devastated the Green River, one of the West’s last great rivers and a sanctuary for native fish and wildlife, and severely harmed the Colorado River downstream.  The dismissal of the preliminary permit application by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is a significant setback for the plans of a private developer to turn water into profits.

“FERC made the right call,” said McCrystie Adams, Earthjustice staff attorney in Denver. “This proposal would have drained the Green River, placing local economies, recreation, fish and wildlife in jeopardy.  We are confident that this project will never be approved. We will continue to oppose any project that threatens the West’s rivers and way of life like the Flaming Gorge proposal did.”

The applicant, Aaron Million, previously sought a permit for the pipeline from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps).  In July of 2011, the Corps terminated its review of the project because the applicant missed multiple deadlines and did not provide information requested by the Corps.  A few months later, the applicant redesigned the project to include some incidental hydropower components and requested review through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).  Despite the modifications, the project remained a huge energy hog – the proposal included at least nine air-polluting natural gas-fired pumping stations that would be required to pump the water uphill across Wyoming and over the Continental Divide.  Million has acknowledged that pumping the water uphill would have used more energy than the project would have created through hydropower.

A coalition of 10 conservation groups from Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and Arizona, the Colorado River Protection Coalition, intervened in the FERC review of the pipeline project. The coalition, represented by Earthjustice, called upon FERC to deny the permit on numerous grounds.  The coalition’s lead argument—and the one that FERC adopted in its decision—was that the Pipeline was a water supply project requiring environmental review and approval of a massive pipeline and diversion, not merely a “hydropower project,” and thus FERC’s involvement in the process was premature.  The Colorado River Protection Coalition argued that the pipeline was unlikely to gain necessary approvals due to the irrevocable harm to the Green and Colorado Rivers and other extreme environmental damage that would be associated with the pipeline’s construction and operation.  Specifically, the proposed Flaming Gorge Pipeline would likely violate the Endangered Species Act, would adversely affect four national wildlife refuges, and would be located in a U.S. Forest Service roadless area, in addition to a number of other impacts.

The Colorado River Protection Coalition’s comments and motion to intervene are posted here: http://savethepoudre.org/documents/Sierra-Club-et-al-Motion-to-Intervene-FERC-Project-No-P-14263-000.pdf

A map of the pipeline’s proposed 550 mile route across Wyoming and down through Colorado is here: http://savethepoudre.org/documents/RWSP-Overview-map-12-15-2011.pdf
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In addition to Wyco’s application, the State of Colorado is also studying the pipeline through a “Flaming Gorge Task Force” that was initiated through a south Denver suburb, the Parker Water and Sanitation District.  Both proposed projects — Wyco’s  and Parker’s — claim they can divert up to 240,000 acre feet of Green River water to the sprawling suburbs of Colorado’s Front Range.  After Friday’s ruling, conservationists also called on the State of Colorado to stop funding the Task Force.

“This pipeline proposal is a complete waste of time and money as well as an environmental nightmare,” said Gary Wockner, coordinator for the Save the Colorado River campaign.  “The State of Colorado should also stop wasting the public’s money on this scheme and focus instead on common-sense solutions, including water conservation and water-sharing agreements with farmers.”

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