Federal circuit court overrules approval of Uinta Basin Railway

Tara Alatorre
Sky-Hi News
Heated tanker cars roll west through Glenwood Springs on June 24, 2022. Some Uinta Basin way crude is currently trucked to railheads near Price, Utah, and shipped to Gulf Coast refineries in heated cars, but, if the Uinta Basin Railway is approved, the number of heated oil trains passing through Glenwood Springs would increase to between three and 10 per day.
Amy Hadden Marsh/Aspen Journalism

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overruled the Surface Transportation Board’s approval of the Uinta Basin Railway project Friday morning. The court ruled that there were numerous National Environmental Policy Act violations surfacing from the environmental impact statement for the project.

“The deficiencies here are significant,” the ruling stated.

The railway project would have permitted Utah oil producers to transport waxy crude oil through Colorado, allowing tanker cars carrying 350,000 barrels of waxy crude to rumble along the Colorado River.

The crude would have traveled through Gore and Byers canyons and followed the Colorado and Fraser rivers in Grand County. The trains then would have passed through Winter Park’s Moffat Tunnel towards Denver and eventually down to gulf coast refineries. Every town in Grand County would have experienced an increase in train traffic.

Rep. Joe Neguse and Sen. Michael Bennet expressed their gratefulness for the ruling in a joint press release.

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“This ruling is excellent news,” the press release stated. “The approval for the Uinta Basin Railway Project has been gravely insufficient, and it did not properly account for the project’s full risks to Colorado’s communities, water, and environment.”

The press release went on to say that there must be a new review that accounts for all of the effects the project would have in Colorado, including potential oil spills and wildfire risks.

“An oil train derailment in the headwaters of the Colorado River would be catastrophic – not only to Colorado, but the 40 million Americans who rely on it,” the press release said.

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