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Opponents of Powder River Basin Rail Line lose round

Opponents of Powder River Basin Rail Line lose round

A U.S. Surface Transportation Board decision approving a plan by Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad (DM&E) to build a 280-mile rail line into Wyoming’s Powder River Basin and improve another 600 miles of track was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

   But opponents of the plan, which include the Mayo Clinic and the city of Rochester, Minn., through which the coal trains would rumble, said they would continue to fight the planned rail line.

   They and other parties had challenged the adequacy of the STB’s most recent environmental review in the matter. In its decision, the court rejected those challenges and upheld the board’s decision.

   The project would cost $6 billion and the railroad has applied for a $2.3 billion loan from the Federal Railroad Administration to help fund it. A decision on the loan is expected in early 2007.

   “We are pleased with the court’s ruling, which is a significant step in allowing this important project to go forward,” said STB Chairman Charles D. Nottingham, in a statement. “DM&E now has the opportunity to introduce additional competition and capacity into the Powder River Basin and to rehabilitate its existing line to help meet our Nation’s growing freight rail needs.”

   The STB first approved the plan in 2002.

   The court’s decision was issued in Mayo Foundation, et al. v. STB, No.06-2031 (8th Cir. Dec. 28, 2006).