Thursday, November 29, 2012

Alaska Survival v. Surface Transportation Board

Nov 28: In the U.S. Court of Apppeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 12-70218. On Petition for Review of an Order of the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB). The Appeals Court issued an order stating, ". . . the petition for review of the STB's order is denied. An opinion on the merits of denial of the petition for review will follow in due course." Lifting the stay will allow the Alaska Railroad's extension project to Port MacKenzie in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.
    In this case the Appeals Court said in part, "After further review of the record, we have concluded that the STB's 'purpose and need' statement complied with NEPA and that Petitioners no longer raise 'serious questions' on this point. Moreover, the balance of hardships no longer tips sharply in the Petitioners' favor. Further delay of this project will prevent the award of construction contracts, postpone the hiring of construction employees, and significantly increase costs. . . Because this project is funded largely with taxpayer dollars, these increased costs of construction, which the Respondents-Intervenors in moving to lift the stay estimated at $10–12 million, will burden the public upon continued delay. By contrast, the weight to be given Petitioners' assertions of hardship because of environmental harm is weakened by this court's decision to deny the petition for review, which will allow the project to move forward. Because we have concluded that the agency acted in accord with law and that its decision is not arbitrary and capricious, it is for the STB and not for our court to balance the justifications of planned economic progress in improved rail service against the possibilities of environmental harm from building and operating the rail line."
    A release from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough indicates that in November 2011, the Federal Surface Transportation Board approved the plan to build a new 32-mile rail line, connecting Port MacKenzie  to the Railroad's main line near Houston. On January 20, the Sierra Club, Cook Inletkeeper, and Alaska Survival filed a legal challenge to the Board's decision. Borough Mayor Larry DeVilbiss said he was delighted to hear the court's ruling. He said the Port MacKenzie Rail project will be a good return on investment for the state. He said, "This will diversify our Alaska economy. One of the things that's always struck me about this project, we're looking at a maximum of $300 million that is invested, but when you look at the payback, per year, on a 50-year study on this, the state will be getting back $300 million a year on the assets that will be moving down this track, so it's a no brainer."
    Access the complete order from the Appeals Court (click here). Access the release from the Borough (click here). [#Transport, #CA9]
Want to know more about WIMS? Check out our LinkedIn company website (click here).
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

No comments: