WASHINGTON — Sens. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., have sent a joint letter to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) stating their opposition to Canadian National’s request for an expedited environmental review and decision on its pending acquisition of the EJ&E Railroad.
“Given the impact of this acquisition on local communities throughout Northwest Indiana, it’s important that the STB have the time for careful consideration of the deal,” Bayh said. “I believe strongly that area residents should be given the opportunity for a thoughtful, public review and the chance to voice concerns and have their questions answered.”
On May 13, CN filed a request with the STB that a decision on its proposed acquisition of EJ&E be issued by December 1. The impetus for the request was the fact that CN’s Stock Purchase Agreement with EJ&E, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the United States Steel Corporation, established a Dec. 31 date for completion of the transaction. CN argued that the deal must be completed by then to avoid a monetary loss and an uncertain business environment.
In their letter, Lugar, Bayh and Visclosky argue that, the Code of Federal Regulations “does not list the monetary cost to a company and the company’s ability to make ‘fundamental business decisions’ as factors that a federal agency should consider when requested to establish time limits for an environmental review process. Therefore, CN does not meet the criteria established by the Council on Environmental Quality and CN should not expect the STB to place their company’s bottom line above the quality of life and economic vitality of Northwest Indiana.”
Should the acquisition be approved, it would result in a three-fold increase in rail traffic on the existing EJ&E line in Northwest Indiana, the Congressmen say. With as many as 34 trains per day running on the track, the acquisition would bisect local communities, impeding the flow of automobile traffic and creating a considerable public safety concern, they added.
Additionally, the acquisition would create new obstacles to the expansion of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District’s South Shore Line and would hinder the expansion of Gary/Chicago International Airport. Opposition to the acquisition has been widespread in the affected communities and the STB has received an unprecedented level of public comment against the transaction.
Lugar, Bayh, and Visclosky have been leaders in opposition to CN’s efforts to purchase EJ&E. They received indication from members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation that they too would be writing a letter against CN’s request for an expedited decision.