FRA Issues Final Environmental Review on Proposed DM&E Powder River Basin Project, New Safety and Air Quality Requirements Added

WASHINGTON — The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today announced it has determined that the proposed Dakota, Minnesota, & Eastern (DM&E) Powder River Basin project has met the requirements of the federal environmental review process, and outlined new measures the railroad must take to improve safety and air quality if the pending DM&E $2.3 billion Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan application is approved.

The release of FRA’s final environmental review, known as a Record of Decision (ROD), marks the start of a 90-day clock within which the agency must approve or disapprove the DM&E loan application. The final decision will be made after thorough consideration of an extensive and independent evaluation of the railroad, the proposed project, and the RRIF loan application.

If the loan is approved, FRA will require DM&E to make additional safety improvements at 10 highway-rail grade crossings in Minnesota and South Dakota to address projected increases in both highway and rail traffic. FRA also will require that locomotives used for the proposed project west of Huron, South Dakota, meet or exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) most stringent air pollutant emissions standards to reduce impacts to sensitive national park areas.

In completing its review, FRA adopted the environmental impact statements issued by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) in its evaluation of the proposed DM&E project, including all 147 environmental and safety conditions to address the impact of the project on communities along the route.

In addition, the FRA released a Final Section 4(f) Statement, required under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s strict environmental review process. It addresses environmental issues not fully covered by the STB review to assess the potential impact of the proposed project on public parks, recreation areas, wildlife and waterfowl refuges or historic sites of national, state or local significance.

During the 90-day period, FRA will issue a final decision on the loan application submitted to the agency’s RRIF program. If approved, the FRA safety and air quality measures listed above, and any additional conditions, would be made part of the final loan terms.

— Special to News Wire