Thursday, January 24, 2013

Alaska Survival, et al v. Surface Transportation Board

Jan 23: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 12-70218. The Appeals Court explains that in this appeal it considers whether principles of administrative law and a controlling statute governing railroad extensions and applicable protections of environmental laws require it to grant a petition for review of a specialized Agency's decision to permit the extension of a railroad line to Port MacKenzie, Alaska [See WIMS 1/29/12]. Petitioners Alaska Survival, Sierra Club, and Cook Inletkeeper seek review of the Surface Transportation Board's (STB) decision authorizing Alaska Railroad Corporation (ARRC) to construct about thirty-five miles of new rail line between Port MacKenzie, located in Alaska's Cook Inlet, and the railroad's main line, located near Wasilla, Alaska.
    The STB granted ARRC an exemption under 49 U.S.C. § 10502 of the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995 (ICCTA) and authorized ARRC to construct the rail line. Petitioners challenge the STB's authority to exempt the railroad from the full licensing provisions of 49 U.S.C. § 10901 and the Agency's compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Respondents claim that Petitioners did not administratively exhaust the issue of whether the STB properly granted the exemption and that the issue is not properly before us. The Appeals Court said, "we deny the petition for review."
    In its final conclusion, the Appeals Court said, "We hold that the procedures of the STB under the ICCTA [Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act] were sufficient and were satisfied and that there was no error under NEPA because the purpose and need statement was adequate; the agency considered all viable, reasonable alternatives; and the EIS contains a detailed, thorough, and thoughtful discussion of the wetlands impacts and mitigation measures. Concluding that there was no violation of the ICCTA, NEPA, or the APA, we deny the petition for review."
    Access the complete opinion (click here). [#Transport, #CA9]
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