ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— The Center for Biological Diversity today challenged federal regulators to stop a natural gas pipeline that would destroy critical habitat for the threatened loach minnow in the San Francisco River near Clifton, Ariz.
“The survival of the loach minnow was already in doubt before this pipeline plan, which would severely damage important habitat in the San Francisco River,” said Jay Lininger, a Center ecologist in Albuquerque. “The federal government needs to rethink this pipeline and not place ill-considered energy development ahead of imperiled fish.”
The pipeline was laid in 1967 to serve an open-pit copper mine near Morenci, Ariz.
Erosion of the river bank and resulting exposure of the buried pipes prompted the El Paso Corporation in July to apply for permission from the federal government to replace three pipeline segments, spread rock, and construct a permanent concrete structure within the streambed and floodplain of the San Francisco River.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a biological opinion in July stating that El Paso’s plan will (1) remove critical habitat essential to the survival and recovery of the loach minnow by destroying a portion of the river floodplain; and (2) disturb fish by taking water out of the channel and digging up the streambed.
Today’s petition requests that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reconsider its Sept. 16 approval of El Paso’s application. It alleges that the commission failed to consider alternatives, including removing the pipeline.
El Paso recently won approval from federal regulators to construct a separate 677-mile pipeline connecting gas fields in Wyoming to pipes in Oregon that feed markets in California. The Center in July filed a lawsuit challenging the Ruby pipeline in the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco, citing impacts to nine species of endangered fish where the line would cross rivers and streams.
“The San Francisco River is one of many examples across the West where gas pipelines can jeopardize endangered fishes,” Lininger said.
The loach minnow, a native to Arizona and New Mexico, was placed on the endangered species list in 1986. It remains threatened by livestock grazing, mining, logging, groundwater pumping, water diversion and nonnative species.