News & Reviews News Wire Final environmental statement released for Uinta Basin project

Final environmental statement released for Uinta Basin project

By | August 6, 2021

Document from STB's Office of Environmental Analysis identifies preferred route

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Map showing proposed rail route in Utah
The Whitmore Park Alternative has been selected as the preferred route for the proposed Uinta Basin Railway. (STB Office of Environmental Analysis)

WASHINGTON — The Surface Transportation Board’s Office of Environmental Analysis has released its final Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Uinta Basin Railway, and selected the Whitmore Park Alternative as the environmentally preferred route for the approximately 85-mile rail line to serve a remote portion of northeastern Utah.

The 637-page environmental document, accompanied by more than 2,200 pages of appendices, includes analysis of major, minor, downline, and cumulative impacts of the project the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition seeks to build, primarily for the movement of crude oil. When built, the line, connecting to the existing Union Pacific main line near Castle Gate, Utah, could see 3.68 to 10.52 trains per day, according to the Coalition’s estimates.

The final document reflects changes resulting from 1,934 comments submitted after the draft version of the environmental statement was issued on Oct. 30, 2020, until the close of the comment period on Feb. 12, 2021.

Map showing three possible rail routes
A detail from an STB map shows the three routes considered for the Uinta Basin Railway. (STB Office of Environmental Analysis)

The Whitmore Park Alternative is preferred, the document says, because it would permanently affect the smallest area of water resources, decrease impact on threatened or endangered plants and birds, and avoid impacts on residential areas.

The STB will use the environmental document in deciding whether to approve the rail project, deny it, or approve with mitigating conditions. The board has previously indicated its support for the need for the project from a transportation standpoint [see “Digest: STB ruling supports transportation aspect of Uinta Basin project,” Trains News Wire, Jan. 5, 2021]. That 2-1 deision included a vote in favor by board member Ann Begeman, whose term has expired, while Martin Oberman — now the board chair — voted against.


6 thoughts on “Final environmental statement released for Uinta Basin project

  1. Right now Heavy tanker convoys are traveling US40 the 3 hours from the Uintah Basin to Salt Lake City’s 3 refineries that can Handle this “Black Wax” Crude so called because of the high percentage of paraffin-like wax which is in it. That is why a pipeline is not a good alternative. US40 is a narrow, two lane road in may places and over mountain passes, is horrible in the winter time. The interference between extended length tankers with pup trailers and the passenger vehicles headed to and from the Uintah Basin, Dinosaur Natl Monument and Western Colorado and its resort towns is always a problem. The cost to rebuild the Highway to the needed standards would exceed the cost to build the railway because of costly environmental mitigation of wildlife issues, rivers, streams and wetlands. Take the tanker trucks off of the Hwy and the Highway is fine as is. Plus, the railway will open up the basin to needed freight moves of good and services in addition to oil. It would be a win-win for everyone, except the environmentalist who would complain no matter which build job was chosen.

  2. I can’t help but think the only way we’ll ever see this line is if it serves as inspiration for a model RR’er somewhere. Seems too much of a political “hot potato”, and seems the economics of it are a stretch. It’s about 25 years too late…

  3. If Oberman votes against this, it shows he’s not as smart as people think he is…there’s more to this line than just shipping oil. There are minerals hidden in that area of Utah, and if someone was smart enough they could run a profitable tourist service as well…but most of America isn’t smart enough unfortunately.

  4. If anyone wonders why nothing gets built in this country there are 2,800 pages to this, and that’s before the inevitable rewrites and amendments. They are forecasting high numbers for oil out and a lot of frac sand going in. There would be 16 miles of tunnels including a long one under the summit. With the Biden push to renewables there is no way the Sanders/Warren/AOC government would approve this; a new railroad to transport oil (and carry in frac sand to develop wells) is unacceptable. Where did they find people to invest in this?

    1. Any project of this size is a long game.
      Maybe the investors are betting on a short life for the Sanders/Warren/AOC cabal.

  5. The economic value of this is not clear. Supposedly it’s to ship oil; but a pipeline would be much cheaper and less expensive to operate. I don’t think there is much mining going on around Vernal.

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