We Shut Down a Fossil Fuel Pipeline in Idaho…and We’re Just Getting Started

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Canada lynx. Photo: Eric Kilby.

This week, we scored a huge victory for the climate, as well as endangered free-ranging species like grizzly bears, wolverines and lynx, when we shut down a natural gas pipeline called the Crow Creek Pipeline in Idaho. Our organizations, Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Yellowstone to Uintas Connection, have been fighting a legal challenge to this pipeline for more than two years, and our tireless efforts have just paid off. Not only did the government cancel the pipeline, but they also legally committed to requiring us to conduct a full environmental analysis before the pipeline could ever be brought back from the dead.

What we did in this case was unprecedented: after two years of litigating this case and filing our opening brief, the government backtracked and fled, without even waiting for a final court order. We have never seen this in a legal challenge to a pipeline before. This means that there is no possibility of an appeal to an ideological Supreme Court that would reverse this victory if given the chance. Instead, this win is here to stay.

CONTEXT

Since time immemorial, native wildlife, including grizzly bears, bobcats and wolverines, have inhabited and roamed the higher elevation connections between the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem and the Uinta Mountains, linking the northern and southern Rocky Mountains. south. In the midst of the greatest mass extinction since the dinosaurs, this unique area must be protected and managed as a wildlife corridor for our endangered wildlife. It is not a dumping ground for extractive industries.

Despite the incalculable value of this wild place, in 2019 the U.S. Forest Service allowed a fossil fuel company to clearcut a 50-foot-wide corridor through publicly owned National Forest lands — including six roadless areas. inventoried – for the construction of a pipeline. The Forest Service’s decision provided the private company with a 50-foot right-of-way during construction and a permanent 20-foot right-of-way to maintain the pipeline. The decision also authorized above-ground facilities such as valves and staging areas.

In addition to climate damage, the pipeline would have increased illegal wildlife killings, invasive weeds, and illegal motorized use. Critically, lynx, grizzly bear, wolverine, sage grouse, Ute braid orchid and yellow-billed cuckoo – all endangered – may be present in this area. In addition, six listed roadless areas would have been contaminated by this pipeline.

In fact, the pipeline was so inconsistent with the “forest plan” governing these public lands that the Forest Service had to change the management plan for the entire national forest to benefit a private fossil fuel company. Essentially, federal taxpayers owning these public lands were to subsidize the profit margin of a private natural gas company at the expense of the climate, public lands, and endangered wildlife.

Our litigation stopped that pipeline even before the company could innovate.

NOW WHAT?

It’s not just a win for us; it is a victory for the planet. One less pipeline. There is a catch, however. The problem is that we are left with the legal bill. Our legal fees for this case totaled over $100,000, which is still a meager budget to shut down a pipeline with complex federal litigation.

The government agreed to pay the modest sum of $12,500 for our legal fees. So now we need your help to raise nearly $90,000 to pay the true financial cost of our victory.

During the month of August, all donations will go to our Climate Protection Legal Fund, which will pay our legal bill for the first pipeline lawsuit and prepare us to win our next pipeline lawsuit.

Please make a tax-deductible donation here: https://allianceforthewildrockies.org/take-action/

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