Group praises decision to study coal rail impact

SHERIDAN — Members of the Northern Plains Resource Council have joined together to praise a recent decision by the Surface Transportation Board to study the environmental impacts of the proposed Tongue River Railroad in southeastern Montana.
According to a media release, select members of the conservation and agricultural organization have worked for about 30 years to prevent the railroad from industrializing a ranching valley.

“We are happy the STB realized that the effects of this railroad and the mine it serves will be felt in communities all along the rail line,” Northern Plains Chair and Montana rancher Walter Archer said in the release. “No other agency is stepping forward to study the cost of installing overpasses, underpasses and other infrastructure changes to allow communities to live with the dramatic increase in rail traffic that is predicted from companies looking to export their coal overseas.”

“It does acknowledge the many public comments it received from community leaders down the rail line and we appreciate that,” he added. “We hope they stick to their guns and study the effects on the entire Northwest from proposed mines to proposed West Coast coal ports.”
Last October, the Tongue River Railroad Company revised an application for the project with the STB.

The group intends to construct and operate an approximately 83-mile rail line between Miles City, Mont., and two ending points near Ashland, Mont.

The line would serve as yet another step in the effort to transport coal from the Powder River Basin and surrounding areas to existing and proposed Pacific Coast shipping ports.

Industry leaders say additional rail infrastructure is needed in order to satisfy demand from coal-hungry Asian markets.
The Surface Transportation Board, a regulatory agency affiliated with the Department of Transportation, said the environmental impact study will further encourage public participation in the project.

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