Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Company regrets Ruby Pipeline conservation deal

An El Paso Corp. spokesman expressed regret that the company struck a deal setting aside some $22 million in conservation trusts to alleviate environmental opposition to a Wyoming-to-Oregon natural gas pipeline. El Paso's subsidiary, Ruby Pipeline LLC, began construction of the $3 billion pipeline the day after receiving federal approval on July 30. Just weeks before receiving approval, El Paso struck a deal with the Western Watersheds Project and Oregon Natural Desert Association setting up two conservation trusts. The trusts, managed by a third party, would be used to buy out federal grazing allotments and otherwise curb activities along the 680-mile Ruby Pipeline route to protect habitats for sage grouse and other wildlife. El Paso spokesman Richard Wheatley said the company felt that the level of opposition brought by the two groups left no other choice but to strike a deal. "We did not expect the backlash we have received from the counties and states concerning our agreements with Western Watersheds on the trust," Wheatley said Monday. "Had we done more homework ... perhaps we would have gained more insight to the opposition to those two groups and how they operate." Now El Paso finds itself in hot water with several state and county governments despite mostly enthusiastic support from government officials at the onset of the project. County governments across four western states, including four southwest Wyoming counties, say El Paso Corp. betrayed their support by striking the conservation trust deal at the last minute. They say any trust fund established to mitigate impacts of the pipeline ought to benefit all stakeholders and not just single out one interest group...more

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