OGDEN -- In a move a county commissioner says could cost Box Elder millions of dollars, an Oregon environmental group filed a motion Thursday for an injunction to stop construction on the Ruby Pipeline, saying it is too destructive to endangered fish.
The natural-gas pipeline will cross more than 200 streams along its nearly 700-mile route that includes Northern Utah, and some of the techniques used to lay the pipeline, such as blasting and water diversion, will harm endangered animals, said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center for Biological Diversity.
An injunction could cost Box Elder County millions of dollars in tax revenues, said Commissioner Jay Hardy.
Greenwald said the center hopes the injunction will be granted within a few weeks. Construction on the pipeline began on some sections after Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval was granted July 30.
El Paso Corporation refused to speculate on the outcome of the litigation. Its lawyers are creating a response to the motion, said Richard Wheatley, spokesman for Ruby Pipeline, a subsidiary of El Paso.
This is not the first environmental group to raise concerns about the pipeline. El Paso recently entered an agreement with Western Watershed Project that many ranchers fear puts grazing permits in danger.
Through a nonprofit third-party fund managed by El Paso, Western Watershed Project, and a third party not yet selected, El Paso will pay $15 million over 10 years to form a sagebrush conservation fund. The other $5 million will be paid to the Oregon Natural Desert Association.
Hardy said the county is concerned with El Paso's deal.
"The next time we have a project, every environmental group will be lined up waiting for a handout, wanting money. It's too damn bad we have a small segment of the population that's so environmentally radical that they delay projects that would benefit everybody," he said.
The pipeline also will bring in more than $6 million annually in centrally assessed property tax, Hardy said. If the project is delayed for a year or more, the county, school district and other taxing entities will miss out on a significant chunk of money.
It also would hurt those who rely on the pipeline for work.
"We have people that came in to work on this project that are waiting for it to start, and they need to go to work," Hardy said.
Greenwald said he'd like to see El Paso take a different route and choose different methods of crossing the streams.
The motion says the injunction needs to be expedited because the longer construction continues, the harder it is to create a less-damaging route.
Greenwald said the company rushed the process of siting and approving the pipeline.
"There hasn't been a thoughtful consideration on routes that are best for the fish, or other areas. This goes right through some of the most remote and pristine lands in the West," he said.
The company continues construction everywhere it can in order to meet a spring deadline to open the pipeline.
Wheatley said there are still a few areas in Nevada and Oregon where they are working on identifying and preserving National Historic Preservation areas before the company begins construction.