Environmentalists: Pipeline to set important precedent
When a 20-foot pipeline corridor snaking through a wilderness threatens to become a 100-foot-wide swath, environmentalists become indignant. If the proposed Bull Mountain Pipeline is allowed to penetrate three large roadless areas around the eastern reach of Mesa County, it could provide an excuse for energy companies to enter roadless areas with their pipelines all over the West, Wilderness Workshop Director Sloan Shoemaker said Tuesday. “Then we can do other stupid things in roadless areas,” he said. Shoemaker sat in the copilot’s seat of an EcoFlight Cessna as it seemingly skirted the tops of aspen trees over the proposed pipeline route east of Battlement Mesa on Tuesday morning. The pipeline could violate the federal Roadless Rule, prevent wilderness designation for the area and critically damage elk, lynx and deer access to Grand Mesa and Battlement Mesa, he said. The problem, he said, is that it’s not just a matter of putting a pipe in the ground. Building the Bull Mountain Pipeline would require at least a 100-foot swath of range and forest to be denuded, according to a Forest Service draft environmental impact report. The proposed pipeline would be a 25-mile-long, 20-inch pipe slated to carry natural gas from a Gunnison Energy and SG Interests coalbed methane field in Gunnison County to a compressor station in Garfield County south of Silt via the far eastern tip of Mesa County. It would roughly follow the path of a decades-old, 5-inch pipeline whose narrow, lightly forested scar can still be seen from the air. A decision about whether Bull Mountain will be built and what route it will take is expected sometime early next year, Forest Service spokeswoman LeeAnn Loupe said. Other proposed routes would be longer, but would take the pipeline along roadway corridors. The Forest Service prefers the route through the roadless areas. Gunnison Energy officials say the pipeline scar will be reclaimed quickly after construction, but environmentalists say they fear it will take much longer for the scar to disappear, and they argue it will require the company to build temporary roads that are prohibited by the Forest Service’s Roadless Rule.