STB Releases FEIS for Proposed Uinta Basin Railway

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
The STB’s Office of Environmental Analysis analyzed three potential routes for a proposed new railroad, which would primarily transport crude oil produced in northeastern Utah’s Uinta Basin.

The STB’s Office of Environmental Analysis analyzed three potential routes for a proposed new railroad, which would primarily transport crude oil produced in northeastern Utah’s Uinta Basin.

The Surface Transportation Board’s (STB) Office of Environmental Analysis (OEA) has issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Uinta Basin Railway in Utah.

The move paves the way for STB to make a final decision on the line, and follows a public comment period on the Draft EIS, which ran until Feb. 12, 2021.

The state of Utah’s Seven County Infrastructure Coalition is seeking STB authority to construct and operate the line. (In September 2020, Drexel Hamilton Infrastructure Partners, LP and the Coalition executed an agreement to advance the line; Fort Worth, Tex.-based Rio Grande Pacific Corp. would handle construction and operations.)

Like the Draft EIS that OEA released on Oct. 30, 2020, the Final EIS recommends the 88-mile Whitmore Park Alternative as the environmentally preferred route. Also analyzed were the Indian Canyon Alternative (81 miles) and the Wells Draw Alternative (103 miles) in addition to a “no action” alternative. Each of the three routes would extend from two terminus points in northeastern Utah’s Uinta Basin near Myton and Leland Bench to a connection with the existing Union Pacific Provo Subdivision near Kyune (see map above).

The Whitmore Park Alternative (see map below) includes five tunnels, totaling 5.7 miles. The estimated construction cost is approximately $1.35 billion.

The OEA has recommended the Whitmore Park Alternative in the Final EIS.

“Depending on future market conditions, between approximately 3.68 and 10.52 trains could move on the proposed rail line per day, on average, including both loaded and unloaded trains,” according to the Final EIS. “The Coalition expects that these trains would primarily transport crude oil produced in the Basin, but could also carry frac sand, other proppant material, steel, machinery, or mineral and agricultural products and commodities into and out of the Basin.”

The Final EIS also includes all comments received on the Draft EIS and the OEA’s responses to substantive ones, as well as any changes to the analysis that resulted from comments. In addition, it sets forth the OEA’s final recommendations to the STB, including recommended environmental mitigation measures.

What happens next? The STB will decide whether to approve the proposed rail line, deny it, or approve it with mitigating conditions, including environmental conditions.

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