A WIN: THE PROPOSED UINTA BASIN RAILWAY OIL TRAIN HAS BEEN TEMPORARILY HALTED!

LATEST NEWS:  On 1/17/24, the US Forest Service formally withdrew a federal permit for a key section of the Uinta Basin Railway Project.  This part of the oil train route would have plowed through the protected “Inventoried Roadless Area” of Ashley National Forest in Utah.  The loss of the USFS permit combined with an August 2023 Appeals Court defeat means that railway construction can not start unless the Surface Transportation Board and Forest Service complete a new public process correcting their inadequate Environmental Impact Statement, and the Fish and Wildlife Service completes a new biological opinion, and the Surface Transportation Board and USFS re-approve the project.  Those are a LOT of very high hurdles for this project to overcome!

On 3/4/24, the project’s backers asked the US Supreme Court to restore the permits and allow the UBR project to be built.  Although the project’s backers keep fighting, each step they take will face much more widespread opposition – now that public awareness of this misguided project continues to increase.  We will keep fighting the UBR and will keep you informed with UBR updates and future actions that you can take.  

The Uinta Basin Railway (UBR) proposal would enable the transport of over 400,000 barrels of heated waxy crude oil by rail from Utah through Colorado on existing rail line that runs through Glenwood Canyon and along the Colorado River.  From there, the oil train would pass through Denver and south to Pueblo, endangering many communities along the way. 

Constructing the 88 new miles of railway for this project in Utah would do permanent damage to 10,000 acres of land designated as wilderness/roadless, blast 3 new tunnels, affect 400 streams and disrupt endangered wildlife habitat.This new rail system (with 10,000 foot long oil trains) would allow 4 times the current 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).2  If you want to help in the last-ditch attempts to prevent this already federally approved plan, please keep reading below and take ALL of these actions today!

ACTION #1: Tell Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Governor Polis, CEQ Chair Mallory, USFS, Surface Transportation Board, Dept. Interior, and the EPA Regional Administrator that you don’t want millions of barrels of dirty crude oil crossing Colorado every year:  sign our letter below to urge these lawmakers to revoke the permits for the misguided and dangerous Uinta Basin Railway “oil train” plan.  We implore Vilsack and Buttigieg to heed obvious warning signs about this shortsighted project and instead protect our land, waterways, communities and economy.  We suggest they conduct a more comprehensive analysis taking into effect the enormous risks posed by the URB project

ACTION #2: Sign the petition from our friends at Stop Uinta Basin Railway this group is collecting signatures to give a voice to those opposed to the Uinta Basin Railway. If you think this project is a bad idea and know that we can do better for our communities, please click the button below and sign the petition: 

Permits approved for up to TEN, 1-2 mile-long Trains per day - hauling 110 heated tanker cars

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,3 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.4
  • this new rail system (with 10,000 foot long oil trains) will allow 4 times the amount of tar sands crude oil to reach overseas and out-of-state markets, resulting in increased oil production, drilling 3330 new wells, and more oil use (6 coal plants’ yearly carbon emissions)5 – 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)6 PDF
Need even more information? Check out this fact sheet:
View these maps from our friends at Stop the Uinta Basin Railway:
UBR Map
Oil train newspaper graphic

Further Background Reading:

  • 5/9/24 ARTICLE: New rail safety office could add protections for Colorado residents and environment
  • 4/17/24 ARTICLE: Colorado lawmakers weigh limits, safety regulations for  trains as derailed Uinta Basin Rail trains seek fresh tracks
  • 3/13/24 ARTICLE: Utah oil-train backers petition US Supreme Court to restore railway’s approval
  • 2/20/24 ARTICLE: Forest service pulls Uinta Basin Railway’s special use permit, halting approval of project trying to ship waxy crude oil along Colorado River
  • 2/5/24 ARTICLE: Amid legal woes, lawmakers could spend $750K to keep Uinta Basin Railway “going forward”
  • 2/3/24 ARTICLE: A year after East Palestine train derailment, rail industry blocks new safety rules
  • 2/3/24 ARTICLE: Residents’ lives still in limbo a year after East Palestine toxic train derailment
  • 1/29/24 ARTICLE: Millions of Americans face risk of toxic “bomb train”
  • 1/18/24 ARTICLE: Forest Service withdraws key permit for controversial Utah oil-train project opposed by Coloradans
  • 1/18/24 ARTICLE: Forest Service pulls right-of-way permit that would have allowed construction of Uinta Basin Railway
  • 1/17/24 ARTICLE: Forest Service withdraws permit for Uinta Rail project that would send crude oil though Colorado
  • 12/7/23 ARTICLE: Proposal for trails carrying oil through Eagle County suffers another setback, but isn’t dead yet
  • 11/22/23 ARTICLE:  ‘Out-of-compliance’ Utah oil facility could keep polluting during environmental review  
  • 11/13/23 ARTICLE: Feds oppose rehearing of court ruling that blocked Utah oil train project they approved
  • 11/12/23 ARTICLE: Uinta Basin Railway is on pause, but another Utah railway project stokes worries along Colorado River about more oil trains
  • 10/16/23 ARTICLE: Fatal train derailment in Pueblo leads Colorado lawmakers to call for more safety measures
  • 9/26/23 ARTICLE: Colorado officials shuffle Moffat Tunnel lease team as passenger rail push accelerates
  • 9/1/23 ARTICLE: Uinta Basin Railway derailed, but not officially dead yet
  • 8/30/23 ARTICLE: In wake of oil train legal win, Colorado mountain towns dream of passenger rail
  • 8/18/23 ARTICLE: Federal appeals court derails Uinta Basin Railway plan to send billions more gallons of Utah crude through Colorado
  • 8/18/23 ARTICLE: Federal judge pauses Uinta Basin Railway project that would ship millions of gallons of oil through Colorado
  • 8/10/23 ARTICLE: Multibillion dollar Uinta Basin Railway chugs along amid environment and derailment concerns
  • 8/10/23 ARTICLE: Campaign against more Colorado mountain freight trains advances in litigation and letters
  • 7/28/23 ARTICLE: Oil-train opponents look to railroad’s expiring Moffat Tunnel lease for bargaining power
  • 7/28/23 ARTICLE: Eagle County, conservation groups press federal officials for full review of Utah oil train terminal expansion
  • 7/25/23 ARTICLE: No oil-train risk analysis performed, Union Pacific safety chief tells Colorado lawmakers 
  • 7/6/23 ARTICLE: Uinta Basin oil trains are a disaster waiting to happen
  • 7/5/23 ARTICLE: By the numbers: how much Utah oil trains would increase hazmat rail traffic in Colorado
  • 7/2/23 ARTICLE: Congresswoman seeks answers on Commerce City Suncor refinery train derailment
  • 6/25/23 ARTICLE SERIES:  DOWN THE LINE details the impacts of the UBR Project (Article #1, #2, #3, #4, #5)
  • 6/24/23 ARTICLE: Montana bridge collapses causing train carrying toxic materials to fall into river
  • 6/24/23 ARTICLE: Freight train carrying hot asphalt, molten sulphur derails into Yellowstone River as bridge fails
  • 6/16/23 ARTICLE: Train derails near Suncor refinery
  • 5/25/23 ARTICLE: Miles-long trains are blocking first responders when every minute counts
  • 5/14/23 ARTICLE: Track to Trouble? Rail safety concerns rise with prospects for new oil car traffic
  • 5/5/23 ARTICLE:  A train on fire and mud on the tracks as groups argue against Uinta Basin Railway’s Colorado Plan in Federal Court
  • 5/4/23 ARTICLE:  Billionaire Colorado landowner no longer Pursing Tennessee Pass rail line – Futute of Pueblo-to-Eagle County route tied to controversial proposed Utah oil trail project
  • 4/25/23 ARTICLE: ‘Extreme Risk’ posed by Utah oil train proposal, Colorado AG Weiser warns Feds
  • 4/13/23 ARTICLE: Can Utah oil train project be derailed? Colorado communities, lawmakers hope so.
  • 4/10/23 ARTICLE:  More objections to Utah oil train
  • 4/8/23 ARTICLE:  Utah oil train project denounced as danger to Colorado by top Democrats
  • 4/8/23 ARTICLE:  Uinta Basin Railway concerns prompt Sen, Michael Bennet, Rep. Joe Neguse to visit Grizzly Creek
  • 3/21/23 ARTICLE:  Colorado lawmakers say derailment ‘likely’ in another letter to Biden administration calling for a halt to Uinta Basin Railway Project.
  • 3/9/23 ARTICLE:  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
  • 3/6/23 ARTICLE:  Colorado Congressmen cite Ohio train derailment in letter urging Forest Service to delay approval of Uinta Basin Railway
  • 3/6/23 ARTICLE:  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
  • 2/24/23 ARTICLE:  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
  • 12/14/22 ARTICLE: Uinta Basin Railway Opposition Unites Colorado Towns, Utah Backcountry Residents
  • 7/1/22 ARTICLE: Obstacles mount for Uinta Basin Railway as lawsuit takes aim at public funding – Controversial project would run heated oil trains through Colorado