Supreme Court to hear NEPA oil case

By Niina H. Farah | 06/24/2024 09:51 AM EDT

Justices will review the scope of environmental review for a railway designed to carry crude oil from Utah to the Gulf Coast.

Fracking in the Uinta Basin.

Fracking in the Uinta Basin. WildEarth Guardians/Flickr

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider whether an environmental review for an oil rail line in Utah should include potential effects the federal government does not have direct power to regulate.

The Seven County Infrastructure Coalition, an independent arm of the Utah state government, has asked the justices to undo a lower court decision requiring a more rigorous National Environmental Policy Act review for the Uinta Basin Railway.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit had ruled that the Surface Transportation Board had to evaluate how the construction of the railway could result in more crude oil development, as well as account for the potential environmental effects of refining the resulting fuel.


The proposed 88-mile line would for the first time provide rail transport of waxy crude oil out of the Uinta Basin in northeastern Utah to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Currently, the only way to deliver crude from the basin is to carry it on trucks.

The Supreme Court granted the case, despite objections from Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, who said that because the White House Council on Environmental Quality had recently updated its rules for implementing NEPA, this case was not the best vehicle for challenging the scope of environmental reviews under the landmark law.

The opinion of the solicitor general is one of the factors the high court weighs in deciding whether to take up a petition.