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Safety Threat to Rochester Still Remains Despite Approval Of Canadian Pacific's Railroad Acquisition Of DM&E
Date:9/30/2008

STB green light does not include measures to protect city against becoming

a high-speed rail corridor for coal and hazardous material shipments

ROCHESTER, Minn., Sept. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Today's ruling by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) granting Canadian Pacific Railway's acquisition of the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad (DM&E) fails as usual to address the significant safety concerns raised by the Rochester Coalition.

After the acquisition was announced in Sept. 2007, Rochester officials and Mayo Clinic made numerous factual submissions to the STB citing significant environmental and safety risks created by increased speed and frequency of rail traffic and the shipment of ethanol and other hazardous materials on unsafe tracks. However, STB officials have ignored the requests for more thorough review and have ruled that it will require future assessment and oversight only if the Canadian Pacific decides to proceed with DM&E's controversial Powder River Basin (PRB) expansion.

"The Coalition has never opposed the Canadian Pacific's acquisition of DM&E. While not surprised by the ruling, we are nonetheless disappointed that our reasonable safety concerns weren't addressed. This failure to protect our community against increased rail traffic and speeds places us at significant risk," said Chris Gade, spokesman for the Rochester Coalition.

Members of the Rochester Coalition have opposed any increase in rail traffic by DM&E and CP through Rochester. "Our ultimate concern is protecting the safety of our community. More frequent train traffic through downtown Rochester increases the odds of a train derailment and disrupts emergency response vehicles. The higher speeds that these trains will travel increases the potential for a more serious derailment and the likelihood that these trains will carry hazardous materials makes the possibility of a terrible human tragedy a reality. It is unacceptable," said Dr. Dan Hankins, co-medical director of Mayo Clinic Medical Transport.

In 2002, a Canadian Pacific Railway train derailed near Minot, N.D., causing violent rupture to five tankers and spilling 220,000 gallons of anhydrous ammonia. Roughly 11,600 people were evacuated or asked to stay in their homes. The plume of corrosive gas gradually expanded five miles downwind. More than 1,100 people were treated for chemical burns, mainly to their eyes, nasal passage, throat and lungs. The DM&E rail line runs through the city of Rochester within a few hundred yards of medical facilities, senior living centers and major businesses. Disaster preparedness officials in Rochester have said a similar accident to the one in Minot would be devastating, as hundreds or thousands of patients and vulnerable individuals would be unable to escape.

"Because of the STB's refusal to address our community's safety concerns, we will continue oppose any plan that would jeopardize our safety and vitality by increasing train traffic, speed, and shipments of hazardous materials," said Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede.

The Rochester Coalition continues to engage in an ongoing dialogue with officials from Canadian Pacific Railway, eager to hear specifics of their plans to ensure public safety and ensure the long-term economic vitality of southeastern Minnesota.

The Rochester Coalition represents the city of Rochester, Olmsted County, the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce and Mayo Clinic. For more information, visit http://www.protectrochester.com.

Background

For more than a decade, DM&E has pursued a major rail expansion across southern Minnesota and South Dakota, hoping to haul large amounts of coal from Wyoming's Powder River Basin to power plants in the Midwest and 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. On Feb. 26, 2007, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) denied DM&E's application, stating that the loan "would pose an unacceptably high risk" to federal taxpayers.

In early September 2007 the Canadian Pacific announced an agreement to acquire 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.


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SOURCE Rochester Coalition
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