Colorado lawmakers urge BLM to conduct full review of plans to expand Utah oil facility

Two Colorado legislators are demanding a full environmental review of a proposal to expand a Utah oil transport facility — plans they believe could endanger their state’s residents across the border.

Because the potential expansion of the Wildcat Loadout is located on federal land, Sen. Michael Bennet (D) and Rep. Joe Neguse (D) appealed to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in a letter on Thursday, requesting a “full and robust environmental impact statement (EIS) that takes into account all the risks posed to Colorado.”

The proposed Wildcat Loadout expansion would increase the facility’s capacity to ship waxy crude oil from Utah’s Uinta Basin on a route that would run for more than 100 miles alongside the headwaters of the Colorado River, the lawmakers argued.

The Colorado River, they stressed, provides water to more than 40 million Americans across seven states and 30 tribal nations, while irrigation millions of acres of agricultural land.

Bennet and Neguse previously raised similar concerns about a related railroad proposal — the Uinta Basin Railway — an 88-mile-long project that would seek to connect the Wildcat facility to the national rail system.

Last month, a federal court overruled the Surface Transportation Board’s (STB) approval of the railway and required a new environmental review of the associated proposal.

“In light of the court’s decision, the BLM should not repeat the STB’s mistakes, and instead conduct a robust environmental review,” Bennet and Neguse wrote Thursday. 

The lawmakers stressed the BLM would not be able to sufficiently account for potential harms by conducting only “a cursory environmental assessment,” which requires less public involvement and analysis.

The proposed expansion would involve boosting Wildcat’s capacity from the current 30,000 barrels of oil per day to 100,000 barrels per day. This increase, the lawmakers explained, would be equivalent to an additional 1 billion gallons of waxy crude oil each year.

Bennet and Neguse cited concerns from Coloradans that heightened train traffic from the Wildcat Loadout expansion and the Uinta Basin Railway construction could exacerbate the risk of railway accidents and pose a threat to water resources and wildlife.

“We urge BLM to prepare a full EIS that accounts for the full risks of the Wildcat Loadout expansion to Colorado’s communities, water supplies, and environment,” the lawmakers stated.

The Hill has reached out to the BLM for comment.

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