STB issues Tongue River environmental study for public comment

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WASHINGTON – Surface Transportation Board's Office of Environmental Analysis has issued the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for public review and comment regarding the Tongue River Railroad Co. proposal to build a rail line in eastern Montana. The proposed single-track line would stretch 42 miles between Colstrip and the Ashland/Otter Creek areas of Montana.

The document analyzes the potential environmental impacts that might occur if Tongue River were to construct and operate the proposed rail line, and alternatives to the proposal, including a “no-action” alternative.

The proposal includes the operation of 26 round trips a week handling about 20 million tons annually of subbituminous coal to a connection with BNSF Railway. The agency analyzed five build alternatives, some with different connection points to BNSF. It is contingent on approval of a new coal mine in the area.

The agency invites public comment on all aspects of the document and is providing a 60-day public comment period, which begins upon the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s issuance of a notice of availability in the Federal Register on April 24, 2015. Comments on the document must be e-filed or postmarked by June 23, 2015.

After the close of the public comment period the agency will prepare a Final EIS in response to comments received on the draft. The STB will then issue a final decision based on the entire public record.

There have been four Tongue River Railroad projects filed before the Interstate Commerce Commission and successor Surface Transportation Board since 1986. The proceedings have similarities, but each one has involved distinct environmental reviews and decisions by the agencies.

For more information on the project and the opportunities for public comment, go to

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