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Water-Saving Equipment Halted by River Battle

Nez Perce vs. GEAn ongoing battle shows the tough balancing act companies must play – even as they seek to minimize environmental impacts.

Last month, the Nez Perce tribe tried to stop a shipment of oil field equipment on US Highway 12, which cuts through national forest and the tribe’s homeland. Along with environmental group Idaho Rivers United, the Nez Perce took the case to federal court, arguing that the US Forest Service had failed to enforce its own regulations to protect the forest and river corridor. And last week the plaintiffs won a victory: a judge ordered a stop to shipments, pending a review by the Forest Service.

But equipment maker Resources Conservation Company International, an affiliate of General Electric, said the equipment could save billions of gallons of water a year. And the clock is ticking, the company said: millions of gallons of water could be wasted if the equipment is not installed before winter, the New York Times reports.

While the judge’s ruling focused on tribal rights, Idaho Rivers United is also concerned about environmental effects. It says the movement of “megaloads” such as RCCI’s requires rolling roadblocks that destroy scenery.

As the public’s environmental awareness increases, companies will increasingly find it difficult to make the “environmental” choice. Think of wind turbines and the opposition they’ve drummed up from bird protection advocates; or the heated paper-versus-computer debates. Business can’t please everyone all of the time – it can only plan meticulously and make the best available choice.

Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.

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