New evidence suggests Rochester will become high-speed rail corridor for
coal and hazardous material shipments
ROCHESTER, Minn., May 20 /PRNewswire/ -- On behalf of the Rochester Coalition, Mayo Clinic today presented federal regulators with new evidence that suggests Rochester will become a high-speed rail corridor for coal and hazardous material shipments soon after the Canadian Pacific Railway's acquisition of the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad (DM&E) is approved. The evidence contradicts previous assertions made by the DM&E and Canadian Pacific used to justify their position that the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) should deny mitigation for Rochester and Mayo Clinic.
Evidence in the public record now suggests that a substantial number of carloads of ethanol will move through Rochester on their way to Chicago after the Canadian Pacific gains control of the DM&E. Recent sworn testimony offered by DM&E executives in a separate legal matter also suggests that the DM&E, now owned by the Canadian Pacific but not directly under its control, is actively moving forward with a plan to expand into Wyoming's Powder River Basin (PRB), but the Canadian Pacific claims no such decision has been reached.
The STB has accepted the Canadian Pacific's claims that there would be no significant increase of hazardous material shipments through Rochester as a result of the DM&E sale, so safety mitigation improvements were unnecessary. The STB also previously agreed to a Canadian Pacific request not to require specific mitigation protections for Rochester until or unless the railroad decides to proceed with the PRB expansion. Both contentions appear to be inconsistent with facts now available.
New Hazmat Evidence
In its filed rebuttal papers, the Mayo Clinic stated that "Evidence classified as 'highly confidential' in the Canadian Pacific's April 18 filing to the STB makes it clear that its prior representations are not consistent with its current non-public, sealed representations regarding the nature and extent of the transportation of hazardous materials through Rochester."
The Canadian Pacific previously represented that all of the anticipated growth in ethanol traffic will either move west (to interchange with Burlington Northern Santa Fe) or via Iowa, Chicago & Eastern's lines to the Chicago gateway. The record now states that once the Canadian Pacific, according to its officials, "are confident that track conditions are adequate to ensure safe movement" of ethanol and other hazardous materials over the "DM&E track from Owatonna through Rochester, Minnesota," they will use that routing for the substantial increase in the projected number of carloads of ethanol. The specific data is under a protective order and cannot be disclosed here.
"The STB's decision not to do an environmental review or require mitigation for Rochester was based on the contention there would be no increased risk resulting from the DM&E sale," added Richard Streeter, legal counsel for the Mayo Clinic. "Clearly the Canadian Pacific's latest submission provides different facts. There will be an increase in the amount of hazardous materials traveling through Rochester, which must be properly mitigated to ensure the community's safety and the safety of Mayo Clinic's patients and staff."
DM&E Sworn Testimony: Full Speed Ahead on PRB
DM&E executives stated under oath in eminent domain cases brought by the DM&E that the Canadian Pacific has decided to pursue the PRB project and is actively participating in the project's development with the goal of beginning construction in early 2009. The executives stated that the DM&E currently is spending $3.5 to $4 million a month to advance the PRB expansion, including paying for eminent domain lawsuits aimed at local landowners who are refusing to give their land to the DM&E.
"It's hard to believe that a company like the DM&E, with just $250 million in annual revenues, could spend up to approximately $48 million of that revenue on a single project that hasn't been approved," added Streeter. The DM&E and Canadian Pacific are successfully having it both ways -- advancing the PRB project by seizing farmers' lands, without having to be accountable for the project's impacts or to those who will be affected."
The STB currently is reviewing the Canadian Pacific's acquisition of the DM&E, which historically has had among the worst safety records in the railroad industry and presently operates on substandard tracks. If approved, the acquisition will cause a dramatic increase in traffic, including hazardous materials shipments on DM&E tracks, and may, according to the agreement between the railroads, result in sending more than 34 high-speed, coal-unit-trains through Rochester and within a few 100 yards of Mayo Clinic every day.
As a condition of the Canadian Pacific's acquisition, Mayo Clinic has
requested the STB require specific mitigation for Rochester, including:
-- Consultation on how best to minimize project-related impacts to Mayo
Clinic, including limited transportation of hazardous materials
-- Negotiate voluntary contractual limitations on the total number of
through-traffic trains moving through Rochester with Mayo Clinic and
the city of Rochester.
-- Regulatory/contractual speed limits on local hazardous materials
-- Multiple grade separations for specific in-city road crossings.
These grade separated crossings should be designed and located to
facilitate the movement of emergency vehicles to and from medical
facilities providing emergency services in Rochester, including
Saint Marys Hospital and Rochester Methodist Hospital, which are
both Mayo Clinic hospitals.
-- Increased inspection and installation of wayside detectors, such as
hot box/loose wheel detectors, to the west and east of Rochester to
provide timely warning of potential problems prior to entering
Rochester city limits.
-- Pre-notification for Rochester emergency services of hazmat cargo.
-- Whistle-free crossings for non-grade separated road crossings.
For nearly a decade, the DM&E has pursued a major rail expansion though parts of southern Minnesota and South Dakota in order to haul large amounts of coal from Wyoming's Powder River Basin to distribution points in the East. Unable to secure private financing for the project, DM&E sought the largest federal loan to a private company in American history -- a $2.3 billion loan from U.S. taxpayers to finance a major rail expansion project through the Midwest. On Feb. 26, 2007, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) denied the DM&E's $2.3 billion loan application citing that the loan would have posed an unacceptably high risk to federal taxpayers.
In early September 2007, the Canadian Pacific announced its acquisition of the DM&E.
The Rochester Coalition is committed to protecting the people of Rochester and the patients and staff at Mayo Clinic as well as other affected communities. The Rochester Coalition represents the city of Rochester, Olmsted County, the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce and Mayo Clinic.
|SOURCE Rochester Coalition|
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