Glenwood Springs supports overturning Uinta Basin Railway decision

The Grizzly Creek burn scar along the ridges above Glenwood Canyon as seen from the air on Monday Aug. 25, 2020. Eagle County is opposing 100-car long trains carrying waxy crude on railways along the Colorado River, where in areas like Glenwood Canyon, the tracks are yards from the water.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Glenwood Springs has joined other area municipalities and counties in filing an amicus brief in support of overturning the Uinta Basin Railway decision, according to a city press release.

“If allowed to stand, this increase in oil train traffic would have devastating impacts to Glenwood Springs and other communities along the rail and I-70 corridors,” Glenwood Springs Mayor Jonathan Godes said in the release. 

Last year, construction of nearly 100 miles of new railroad tracks in northeast Utah, called the Uinta Railroad, was authorized by the Surface Transportation Board. The line is to be used to transport extracted waxy crude oil from northeast Utah through Colorado on the existing Union Pacific line and to refineries in the east.

The decision authorizes up to 185,000 crude oil cars that may use the UP’s Kyune-Denver line each year, representing a 20-fold increase from 2015, according to the release.

“Most alarming is the complete lack of consideration for the extreme fire risk, and potentially catastrophic environmental and economic impacts that would occur if there were a spill,” Godes said.

The brief addresses the Surface Transportation Board’s decision, arguing that the decision and its underlying Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) are fatally flawed, and asks for the decision to be reversed and for the EIS to be redone with more attention on the impacts to Colorado

“A glaring inadequacy of the EIS is the claim that wildfire risk in the downline area is ‘not significant,’ which completely ignores real-world evidence,” Godes said.

Main concerns include lack of consideration of the possible threat of wildfire ignition and oil spills that could cause harm to the amici governments and communities, the release states The increase in train traffic carrying highly flammable crude oil through rugged terrain more than doubles the accident risk along the Union Pacific Central Corridor, which parallels I-70, according to the release. 

The brief was filed in support of Eagle County and the Center for Biological Diversity’s petition for review of decisions by the Surface Transportation Board in the United States Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia.

Also joining the appeal are the towns of Minturn, Red Cliff, Avon and Vail, as well as Chaffee, Boulder, Lake, Pitkin, and Routt counties. 

Local governments also said the decision could impact drinking water along the Colorado River, and said that residents in the I-70 corridor deserve the same disclosure and analysis as those residing in Utah, which the STB deemed to be the project study area, according to the release. 

 View the full text of the filed brief

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