A federal judge in Salt Lake City has delivered a major setback to efforts aimed at stopping an interstate natural-gas pipeline from passing through the mountains east of Bountiful.

U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Greene has ruled that Kern River Gas Transmission Co. can immediately occupy a right of way on private land owned by the Goldfleck Corp. in Morgan County.Kern River is building the 900-mile-long pipeline to transport gas from Wyoming to various markets in Southern California.

Goldfleck refused to sell Kern River an easement through its land in Morgan County, prompting Kern River to file a condemnation motion. Goldfleck then filed a motion asking the court to find Kern River's power to condemn unconstitutional.

The ruling means that Bountiful, which joined Goldfleck in its court battle, cannot legally deny Kern River an easement through about 12 acres of city-owned land in the watershed east of town. (Please see related story.)

Kenley Brunsdale, an attorney for Goldfleck and a Bountiful citizens action group, argued that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which gave Kern River the power, failed to determine a "public need" for the pipeline, as required by law.

Brunsdale argued that Kern River's attempt to exercise the power of eminent domain "constitutes a taking without due process of law because it is without reasonable foundation or adequate determining principle," according to a court record.

Greene disagreed. "This court holds that the certificate issued to Kern River by FERC . . . contains a sufficient public-interest finding to support the exercise of condemnation authority."

"Kern River . . . is very pleased with Judge Greene's decision in this case and will continue to work with landowners to reach mutually beneficial agreements with both parties," said company spokeswoman Susan Flaim.

"(Greene's) decision is against us as well," said Bountiful City Attorney Layne Forbes.

Already defeated in numerous appeals and political battles, members of the Bountiful Hills Residents and Concerned Citizens Association expressed disappointment over Greene's ruling.

"Nothing's gone our way. Why should anything change now?" said association vice president Dave Soutter, who blamed politicians for putting the dollar ahead of values.

"The whole thing stinks and it sets a bad precedent. It's just a matter of time before there'll be other utilities going through that corridor up there."


(Additional information)

Bountiful rolls over

Convinced that the fight against the natural-gas pipeline is hopeless, the Bountiful City Council voted 4-1 Wednesday to sign an agreement that grants Kern River Gas Transmission Co. an easement through 12 acres of city-owned land in the mountains east of town.

Kern River has agreed to pay Bountiful $12,000 - more than five times the appraised value - for the 50-foot-wide easement.

Voting against the motion was Councilwoman Renee Coon, a major opponent to the pipeline, who was concerned about the city's liability in the event a disaster occurs as a result of pipeline construction or operation.

But City Attorney Layne Forbes said he believes the city has indemnified itself by joining with Goldfleck Corp. in its lawsuit against Kern River. (Please see main story.)