The U.S. Department of the Interior says it made a mistake giving railroads too much discretion on what can be built on 200-foot-wide rights of way across thousands of miles of public land in 11 Western states.
A proposed water pipeline in California having nothing to do with railroad operations prompted the agency to fix an error from 15 years ago that could also provide a legal justification for putting in oil or natural gas pipelines on the publicly owned land.
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The U.S. Bureau of Land Management issued a memorandum to field offices earlier this month about the change that requires projects on rights of way to serve railroad operations only.
The agency says up to 3,500 evaluations could be needed to determine if work done the last decade and a half meets the updated criteria.