A state fund that is supposed to clean up the damage from fossil fuels should not be used to do more damage.
What would $ 28 million buy for the people of Uintah County? Fire trucks, flood control and road building projects for beginners. Ditto for residents of Duchesne County, and throw in a community center, baseball diamonds and sewer lines.
Now this wrong turn looks like a stalemate, with some of Utah’s worst-hit communities paying the price.
If the railway is built, the analysis – albeit sorely lacking – admits that more than 400 rivers will be destroyed. Over 10,000 acres of wildlife habitat will be stripped or paved, including critical areas that white-tailed and mule deer need to survive. In Emma Park, loud bulldozers and train traffic will drive endangered Greater Sage-Grouse from their breeding and nesting grounds.
The study fails to recognize the devastation the Uinta Basin Railroad will inflict on air, water and wildlife by increasing oil production, and the plan lacks meaningful protections for them.
If the railroad is built, up to five two-mile-long trains carrying 350,000 barrels of crude oil – four times the amount currently trucked to Salt Lake City – could leave the Uinta Basin each day. . These Gulf Coast exports will be in addition to the 80,000 barrels of oil trucked daily to refineries in Salt Lake City.
Residents of this rural area already suffer from air quality as bad as Los Angeles from decades of drilling, and the basin routinely violates federal clean air standards. Ozone pollution can lead to decreased lung function and asthma attacks, leading to emergency room visits and even premature death.
More drilling will make matters worse.
If all that wasn’t enough, follow the money. A group of well-connected companies are raising millions to kick this mess through the environmental clearance and review process.
But funding for this $ 1.5 billion railroad is just not obvious. Utahns will lose $ 28 million in public funds if developer Drexel Hamilton steps down as his coalition contract allows.
Utah deserves better. Residents of Uintah and Duchesne counties, who would bear the brunt of the destruction of this railway, need support to move from the dirty and unpredictable fossil fuel economy to a clean, renewable energy future.
The law states that the Utah Community Impact Standing Committee must use these public funds to repair damage caused by the fossil fuel industry. The board must follow the law, seize the opportunity to take a new direction and invest wisely in a fossil-free future.
Deeda seed, a former member of the Salt Lake City council, is the activist for the Center for Biological Diversity in Utah.
John weisheit is the Director of Conservation for Living Rivers and the Colorado Riverkeeper (a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance movement).