Thursday, December 15, 2016

Feds grant GLB RR’s request for time out

Feds grant railroad's request for time out

The federal agency overseeing the environmental review for Great Lakes Basin Transportation's proposed freight railroad looping around Chicago has granted a request to suspend work while GLBT continues its own planning.

In a letter dated Tuesday, the director of the Surface Transportation Board's Office of Environmental Assessment told GLBT that the office would suspend its work, which is required by the National Environmental Policy Act, despite the fact "that stopping and starting the NEPA review process often adds time and expense to the process and increases the burden on all stakeholders."

GLBT had requested the suspension earlier this month, asking the Office of Environmental Assessment to allow it to complete the required application to build and run the railroad before continuing the work that will ultimately produce an environmental impact statement.

"The application likely will provide information that will help the accuracy of OEA's NEPA review," office Director Victoria Rutson wrote. She asked GLBT to submit a status update on Feb. 28.

GLBT's chief legal and administrative officer, Mike Blaszak, said he "wouldn't rule out" the possibility of having the application complete by the end of February.

"Once GLBT files its application with the (Surface Transportation Board), OEA will resume work on determining a range of reasonable and feasible alternatives to be addressed in the Environmental Impact Statement," Rutson wrote.

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The alternatives will be published and opened to public comment, with the potential for public scoping meetings, Rutson wrote. Then, the Office of Environmental Assessment will begin preparing a draft environmental impact statement.

GLBT's request for a suspension in the environmental work came after it had submitted a response to a third information request from the Office of Environmental Assessment regarding its plan to build a 260-mile railroad from the LaPorte area through Illinois to Milton, Wisconsin. 

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