The Six County Infrastructure Coalition’s proposal to have an Environmental Analysis (EA) and not an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) for the Book Cliffs Road is an effort to avoid disclosing the combined effects of road construction and development of tar sands on public land.
An EA on the road will probably result in a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the road. The EA will only look at the narrow corridor required for the construction of the road. The fact that the road will open hundreds of thousands of acres of public property for the extraction industry is outside the requirements of an EA.
The EA will be written by a private firm and paid for by the Six County Infrastructure Coalition. The primary benefit of the road presented in the EA will probably be the increase of tourism between the national parks.
An EIS or an EA is only a study of the effect a project will have the land resource. Neither the EA nor the EIS studies have any power to protect the land resource. The BLM can accept the damages to the land and still approve the project. However, the BLM cannot violate the provisions of the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and Clean Air Act, etc.
The Six County Infrastructure Coalition and its lobbies do not want an EIS that will look at the cumulative effects of the development of the tar sands caused by the construction of the Book Cliffs Road. The road would be necessary for the development of hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands. An EA does not have the scope to adequately analyze the effect the Book Cliffs Road will have on the Book Cliffs area. An EIS would require a broader and more detailed review of the changes the Book Cliffs Road will bring to the area.
The Grand County Council needs to tell the BLM that the Book Cliffs Road is part of a larger project that will significantly change hundreds of thousands of acres of public property and needs to be part of an EIS that looks at the development of the region by the extraction industry.