ROCHESTER, Minn. – The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) erred in adopting the environmental impact statement (EIS) prepared by the Surface Transportation Board (STB) concerning the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad’s (DM&E) coal train expansion proposal, the Rochester Coalition said in comments filed today.
“The FRA is relying on a dated, insufficient EIS that the Department of Transportation’s General Counsel’s Office has indicated is problematic,” said Steve Ryan, of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP and legal counsel for the Rochester Coalition. “When considering granting a $2.3 billion taxpayer-funded loan – the largest federal loan to a private company in U.S. history – the federal government needs to use up-to-date information.”
The Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern Railroad (DM&E) is seeking the largest federal loan to a private company in American history – a $2.3 billion subsidy from U.S. taxpayers to finance a major rail expansion project through the Midwest.
According to the FRA National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) procedures, any EIS prepared more than three years before commencement of construction is stale and must be revisited, according to the Rochester Coalition. In addition, according to the loan program’s regulations, the FRA must prepare an EIS that addresses the “full scope” and impact of the proposed loan/project and all reasonable alternatives that would alleviate the adverse environmental effects of the project.
The adoption by the FRA of the STB’s EIS fails to fulfill either of these requirements, the Rochester Coalition says.
“This is like an employer using a 10-year-old resume to make a 25-year job appointment,” Ryan said. “The scope of this project has grown enormously since initiation of the main STB NEPA review in 1998 and completion in 2001. Along with that, the cost has escalated from $1.2 billion to $6 to $7 billion and the DM&E rail network has grown from 1,100 miles to 2,000.
“It is only fair that all communities that are impacted by the greater DM&E system, not just the 56 originally identified communities, have a chance to address how this expansion will impact their communities,” Ryan added.