Update: Our Fight Against the Uinta Basin Oil Trains

Colorado Rising has joined the fight to prevent the construction of the Uinta Basin Railway which would enable the transport of heated crude oil traincars through Utah and Colorado.  Here is some background and what we’ve been up to:

We have created multiple action alerts encouraging our supporters to send their comments to President Biden, Colorado’s US Senators Hickenlooper and Bennet, Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack, Transportation Secretary Buttigieg, Governor Polis, all Colorado House Reps, CEQ Chair Mallory, USFS, and the Surface Transportation Board.


Have you heard about this scheme to route up to 10 trains per day carrying heated railcars full of waxy crude oil through treacherous Glenwood Canyon and Denver… along the Colorado River… over high mountain passes… and amongst our tinder-dry forests?  There are so many things wrong with this plan, it is hard to even know where to start!

  • with an average of 1700 train derailments per year in the US,1 it is nearly inevitable that this “oil train” will suffer a derailment over its lifetime, spilling it’s toxic cargo – possibly killing fish & wildlife, causing irreversible contamination, blocking I70 and harming Colorado’s tourist and farming economy.
  • sparks from train wheels are known to cause wildfires. Train derailments and resultant explosions of highly flammable cargo can also cause wildfires.
  • constructing 88 new miles of railway (at a cost of $1.5 Billion) and re-activating dormant stretches will do permanent damage to 10,000 acres of land designated wilderness/roadless, blast 3 new tunnels, affect 400 streams and disrupt endangered wildlife habitat.2
  • this new rail system (with 10,000 foot long oil trains) will allow 4 times the amount of tar sands crude oil to reach markets, resulting in increased oil production, drilling 3330 new wells, and more oil use (6 coal plants’ yearly carbon emissions)3 – thereby causing more climate disasters – just when we need to stop using fossil fuels.
  • there are no comprehensive federal regulations that dictate how long trains can be and how they are configured (# and placement of locomotives, #of full and empty cars, order of cars etc.).  This is especially worrisome considering the fact that long trains with mixed freight cause a higher rate of derailment on inclines and curves – and the Uinta Basin oil trains running through Colorado’s mountains are expected to be VERY long (up to 2 miles in length)4 PDF
Our elected officials have also been sounding the alarm.  Colorado’s US Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper along with US Representative Neguse have been sending letters to the appropriate federal agencies in an attempt to get this project stopped.

Update AS OF 5/5/23:

Eagle County and environmental groups had their day in court on 5/3/23, and argued their case before the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. This article describes some of the proceedings, including questions asked by the judges.  

Further Reading:

Track to Trouble? Rail safety concerns rise with prospects for new oil car traffic ARTICLE HERE 

New Utah oil railroad by Colorado River raises health and climate fears – Railway forecast to quadruple crude oil production in Uinta Basin and will damage Biden’s climate credentials, campaigners say ARTICLE HERE

Colorado Congressmen cite Ohio train derailment in letter urging Forest Service to delay approval of Uinta Basin Railway ARTICLE HERE

Railroad’s plan to haul waxy crude through Colorado’s mountains needs $2 billion in government-approved bonds – Opposition to taxpayers helping foot the bill for Uinta Basin Railway’s “massive carbon bomb” in lining up  ARTICLE HERE

Colorado lawmakers say derailment ‘likely’ in another letter to Biden administration calling for a halt to Uinta Basin Railway Project. ARTICLE HERE

Colorado lawmakers seek suspension of Utah oil train project – Sen. Bennet and Rep. Neguse cite East Palestine derailment in calling for further review of Uinta Basin Railway Project ARTICLE HERE

Utah oil train project denounced as danger to Colorado by top Democrats ARTICLE HERE

More objections to Utah oil train ARTICLE HERE

Uinta Basin Railway concerns prompt Sen, Michael Bennet, Rep. Joe Neguse to visit Grizzly Creek ARTICLE HERE

Oil train newspaper graphic

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