Cheyenne, Wyo. » Construction of a $3 billion gas pipeline from Wyoming through northern Utah and Nevada to Oregon has been pushed back amid work to protect cultural sites and endangered species.
Houston-based El Paso Corp. initially hoped to begin work on the 42-inch Ruby Pipeline this spring. The federal Bureau of Land Management said it hopes to approve the project in early July, after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission works out agreements with each state along the route to protect historic and cultural sites.
The pipeline will run 675 miles from Opal in western Wyoming to Malin, Ore., crossing parts of Rich, Box Elder and Cache counties as well as Nevada.
FERC has drafted agreements with the state historic preservation offices in Utah and Wyoming and should have agreements for the other two states soon, said Mark Mackiewicz, manager of the project for the BLM in Utah.
"It's a big step at least getting those two states completed," he said.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working on a plan to protect endangered species. The BLM can approve the project following approval of the various agencies, Mackiewicz said, perhaps in July.
El Paso spokesman Richard Wheatley said he hopes the project isn't much delayed.
"We're hoping it will get going as soon as possible subject to the approvals we still have outstanding," he said.
Final approval for construction will come from the Office of Energy Projects in FERC.
Some environmental groups oppose the pipeline. The route crosses too many undeveloped lands when the pipeline could be built along highways and other developed corridors, said Katie Fite, with Hailey, Idaho-based Western Wastern Watersheds Project.
"Basically they're opening up this remote and undisturbed area with this pipeline route," said Fite.
Western Watersheds Project filed a motion for a rehearing following FERC approval of the pipeline proposal in April. FERC has one more week to either grant the motion or take no action on it, in which case the motion would be dead.
Fite said her group hadn't heard back yet from FERC.
The Ruby Pipeline is expected to create 5,000 to 6,000 construction jobs. Once built, the pipeline will employ as many as 10 people at each of four compressor stations along the route.
Salt Lake Tribune staff contributed to this report.
Approval of pipeline across N. Utah delayed