Powder River Basin Rail Line Threatens South Dakota and Midwest
February 26, 2007
A clear indicator of just how quickly the tide is turning, two days after the terms of the TXU buyout were announced, the Federal Railroad Administration denied Dakota, Minnesota, and Eastern railroad’s request for a $2.3 billion dollar loan to finance building and updating a rail network intended to haul coal to numerous proposed coal plants. The Sierra Club issued a legal challenge to the proposed award of the loan under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The proposed project would have facilitated additional coal mining in the Powder River Basin, thus propagating continued use of environmentally costly, coal-fired energy production. The project would also penetrate deep into northern plains' open spaces, bisecting vast prairie lands, disturbing riparian areas, increasing erosion, destroying habitat and polluting the air. The Federal Railroad Administration’s denial of this massive loan vindicates the Club’s position that taxpayer dollars should not go to fund this railroad. The Federal Railroad Administration, part of the Department of Transportation, said that the loan "posed an unacceptably high risk to federal taxpayers."
April 15, 2006
Sierra Club has once again gone to court to stop a proposed 980-mile rail line that would haul coal from mines in Wyoming's Powder River Basin. In our previous case (see below), we scored a victory when the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the U.S. Surface Transportation Board had failed to consider the environmental consequences (including global warming) of using an additional 100 million tons of coal per year in Midwest power plants. That decision rejected the project's environmental impact statement and directed the Board to redo the study and include impacts on global warming. However, the Board has now issued a new study for the project, but it again ignores the environmental impacts of power plants burning the transported coal. The new rail line would allow an estimated 100 million tons of coal to travel to coal-burning plants every year, which could increase coal usage nationwide by 10 percent. Burning that coal would substantially increase carbon dioxide emissions, a known contributor to global warming, as well as mercury, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter pollution. Left with no other recourse after the Board twice failed to consider the project's impact on global warming pollution, the new lawsuit asks the court once again to rule in our favor by rejecting the faulty study.
March 5, 2004
The Club recently sealed a huge victory in a case challenging the Bush administration's licensing of a private company's rail line from South Dakota to Minnesota. The new rail line was aimed at facilitating a huge increase in Powder River Basin coal for Midwest power plants, sufficient for 50 new coal power plants in the Midwest. The Cheney Energy Task Force had proposed a huge increase in Powder River Basin coal for Midwest power plants, but the Court enjoined the rail line's license on the grounds that the administration had failed to consider the huge impacts on air quality and global warming caused by the massive coal transport scheme. The Court of Appeals recently declined to reconsider the decision.
Details and Documents:
S.D. commission eases way for DM&E to use eminent domain
August 14, 2007, Associated Press, NBC 11 KARE
FRA Administrator Denies DM&E Powder River Basin Loan Application Citing Unacceptable Risk to Federal Taxpayers
February 26, 2007, Federal Railroad Administration Press Release
DM&E faces new lawsuit
April 18, 2006, by Dan Daly, Rapid City Journal
DM&E foes go to court to stop project
April 18, 2006, by Associated Press, Agri News
Railroad expansion opponents go to court
April 15, 2006, by Joshua Freed, Associated Press, Duluth News Tribune
Railroad foes cite coal's impact
April 15, 2006, by Associated Press, Casper Star Tribune
DM&E coal train foes going to court again
April 14, 2006, by Associated Press, Madison Daily Leader
See other "Stopping the Coal Rush" cases.