Government officials cite Ohio train derailment in letter urging Forest Service to delay approval of Uinta Basin Railway

The two Democrats join environmental groups and communities urging increased scrutiny of the proposed Utah railroad that would route billions of gallons of waxy crude along the Colorado River.

Jason Blevins
The Colorado Sun

Colorado’s U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Joe Neguse are asking the Forest Service to delay final approval of a plan to route the proposed Uinta Basin Railway through a section of roadless area in the Ashley National Forest in northeastern Utah. 

The Colorado Democrats on Monday sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, urging him to not issue the final permit for the railway. With their letter, Bennet and Neguse join a last-ditch effort to stop the Uinta Basin Railway. Environmental groups and many Colorado communities along the route are vying to block the 88-mile Utah railroad, which will route as many as five mile-long trains of waxy, viscous crude oil every day through Colorado along the Colorado and Fraser rivers. 

Saying the recent train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, “has laid bare the threat of moving hazardous materials by rail,” Bennet and Neguse are asking the Forest Service to complete “a robust supplemental review” of the rail plan.

The two politicians said a derailment of waxy crude in the headwaters of the Colorado River would be “catastrophic” to wildlife, water supplies and recreation and impact that entire Colorado River Basin, which provides water for 40 million people in seven Western states. They also pointed to the risk of wildfire from a train derailment in Colorado communities along the proposed route who have grappled with fires, floods and mudslides. 

“It is beyond reckless to expose these sensitive areas of our state to these additional risks,” Bennet and Neguse wrote, noting that the Uinta Basin Railway will also “quadruple the number of rail cars carrying hazardous materials” through metro Denver. 

On March 6, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Joe Neguse requested that U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack not issue the final permit for the Uinta Basin Railway. The railway would bring crude oil through Colorado’s vulnerable landscapes, as state officials warn of a potential disaster like the East Palestine, Ohio derailment of February 2023.
Office of Rep. Joe Neguse/Courtesy Image


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