Judge Vacates Approval of Mojave Desert Pipeline Over Water Usage Concerns

On Tuesday, the Central District of California issued an order vacating the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decision allowing Cadiz Inc. to repurpose an old gas pipeline to transport water across federal land. 

According to the order, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club, the Native American Land Conservancy and National Parks Conservation Association initiated the present litigation against the Department of the Interior and the BLM seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to block the bureau’s decision granting Cadiz a right of way to transport water through an existing, but unused, 64-mile natural gas pipeline that runs across the Mojave Desert.

An associated press release by the Center for Biological Diversity states that the BLM decision to approve the pipeline was issued during the final days of the Trump administration in December 2020. 

In the plaintiff’s complaint, they argued that BLM fast-tracked the normal review process to grant Cadiz the right of way that did not comply with the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. Further, the plaintiffs argued that the BLM decision was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or otherwise not in accordance with law such that it violated the Administrative Procedure Act.

Additionally, the current Department of the Interior and BLM filed a motion for voluntary remand stating they agreed with the plaintiffs and that the case should be for further agency consideration. Further, the defendants stated that when BLM made the decision it did not adequately analyze the potential environmental impacts of granting the right-of-way under the National Historic Preservation Act and National Environmental Policy Act. However, Cadiz filed an opposition against both the plaintiffs and the defendants to prevent the remand to BLM for further consideration. 
After extensive briefings by the parties, the court granted the motion for voluntary remand and vacated the decision granting the right of way to Cadiz.

The Center for Biological Diversity’s press release states that the court’s order will give the BLM the opportunity to prevent disruptive pumping and transport of groundwater. The plaintiffs are represented by their in-house counsel, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP and Earthjustice.