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GROUP FILES APPEAL TO STOP CONSTRUCTION OF GAS PIPELINE

SHARE GROUP FILES APPEAL TO STOP CONSTRUCTION OF GAS PIPELINE

A group of citizens and city officials opposed to the proposed natural gas pipeline through Davis County have filed an appeal to stop its construction.

Filed in the 10th U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver, the document asks the appellate court to review and set aside Federal Energy Regulation Commission decisions that granted two competing pipeline companies the rights to build a 900-mile line from Wyoming's gas fields to markets in southern California.Other than federal legislation, which doesn't seem likely at this point, the appeal may be the opponents' last chance of stopping the project, which they believe will negatively impact the watersheds and recreation areas above Bountiful and create safety hazards for thousands of residents in Davis and Salt Lake counties who would live adjacent to the pipeline.

But Kenley Brunsdale - the attorney for the Bountiful Hills Residents and Concerned Citizens Association, one of the parties in the appeal - is optimistic about the chances of the appeal.

"This is the first time in the history of this case that we have the opportunity to present our concerns to an objective federal court judge," said Brunsdale, a Democrat who is challenging Rep. Jim Hansen in the 1st Congressional District.

Previous appeals with FERC have been futile because "(FERC) is in the business of building pipelines," Brunsdale said.

The candidate, who has made the pipeline a major campaign issue, said he will argue in the appeal that the process that went into selecting the "Wasatch Variation" of the pipeline route was inadequate and ignored widespread opposition.

The Wasatch Variation would bring the pipeline over the mountains east of Bountiful. The line would then skirt the foothills of south Davis County before turning west and south through west Salt Lake County.

Brunsdale believes FERC has ignored other routes because they were too costly.

"Some 30 different routes originally proposed were summarily eliminated before impacts to Utah were even considered. This was socially irresponsible, bad precedent and inconsistent with federal law."

Brunsdale said he hopes the appeal will prompt Kern River and WyCal, the two firms competing to build the pipeline, to work for an alternative.

Both companies, however, have stated their intent is to proceed with the Wasatch route. Though the companies believe the market will bear only one pipeline, it is possible two could be built.

The most favorable alternative to the Wasatch route, Brunsdale said, is the "Chevron" route, which would follow existing utility corridors through eastern Utah.

The Chevron route would be more costly than the Wasatch route, Brunsdale said, but the energy companies and their markets should bear the cost of protecting Utah's environment.

"We are already sending California our water and power . . . We will ask the court to put the burden of preserving the quality of life in Utah where it should be - on those who will profit."

Parties to the suit are the Bountiful citizens group; the cities of West Bountiful, Woods Cross and Centerville; the Utah chapter of the Sierra Club and the Utah Wildlife Federation. Noticeably absent from the appeal is the city of Bountiful, which refused to join in the because the city's attorneys believe it is unwinnable and would be too costly.

City Manager Tom Hardy, however, said he supports the appeal and hopes it is successful.

Brunsdale said he is disappointed that Bountiful will not join in the suit and dismissed the cost, saying he has organized a group of attorneys that will donate their time.

Should the appeal of FERC's decisions fail, Brunsdale said he will file a similar appeal against the Forest Service, which is in the process of amending its forest plan to allow the pipeline to be built on a three-mile strip of forest land above Bountiful.