Midwest Rail Company Ends Bid For New Coal Line
There’s a reason that Big Coal is fighting so hard to convince the world that the dirtiest energy source is “clean coal.” The fossil fuel source is in deep trouble. The latest evidence comes from the Upper Great Lakes and Great Plains states where Dakota Minnesota and Eastern Railroad Company announced on August 27 that it was ending legal efforts to condemn 1,200 acres of land for a new rail line in Wyoming. The $6 billion, 278-mile proposal was intended by the company to tie the Wyoming strip mine coal fields to the Mississippi River.
Bruce Niles, director of the Sierra Club’s national Beyond Coal Campaign , Sierra Club, said the line could have opened markets for 100 million tons of coal annually, enough to power 50 new coal plants and produce 200 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. “Think 40 million cars,” he said.
The fight over the DME rail line put the rail company, residents, the federal government, and prominent institutions -- including the famed Mayo Clinic -- at the front lines of the American energy rebellion. The federal Surface Transportation Board approved the line. The Sierra Club filed a lawsuit in 2002 in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and won. “This decision goes down as one of the first global warming cases nationwide,” said Niles. “The court chastised the Surface Transportation Board for not considering the global warming impacts associated with this massive new rail line.
Twice since then advocates returned to the court to spotlight weaknesses in the permitting process and to insist that much more rigorous environmental assessment was required under federal law. More recently Canadian Pacific purchased DME and the court action slowed the project sufficiently for declining market demand to catch up.
“Available financing has tightened and the country has seen a record economic downturn altering the strategic growth plans of nearly every industry in the country,” said attorneys for DME in announcing that the rail line had been shelved indefinitely. “This has resulted in a longer timeframe for commencement of the project than anticipated at the time these condemnation actions were filed.”
-- Keith Schneider