STB report says Utah rail project would have 'significant environmental impacts' (updated)

Comment period begins for draft environmental impact report and appendices running almost 2,800 pages, predicting impact on water, endangered species, land use
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A map in the Surface Transportation Board's draft environmental impact statement shows possible routes for the Uinta Basin Railway.
Surface Transportation Board

WASHINGTON — The Surface Transportation Board’s Office of Environmental Analysis says the proposed Uinta Basin Railway would would have “significant environmental impacts” in the draft environmental impact statement released Friday.

Waters and wetlands, threatened and endangered species, use of public and private lands, and noise for residences near the rail line would all be affected by the proposed 85-mile rail line to allow transport of crude oil out of an isolated portion of northeastern Utah, as well as inbound shipments of materials related to oil production.

In an environmental impact report, “significance” can refer to both context and intensity of an aspect of the project, as explained here. Context addresses that impact can be multifaceted; intensity addresses that impacts can be both positive and negative, can vary in degree, and be important as a matter of precedent, among other characteristics.

Friday's release of the 580-page document, along with more than 2,200 pages in appendices, initiates the public comment period on the project. There will be six two-hour online public meetings to address the project beginning Nov. 16; other dates are Nov. 18, 19, 20, Dec. 1, and Dec. 3. Written comments can also be submitted electronically at this site, or by mail to:

Joshua Wayland, PhD
Surface Transportation Board
c/o ICF
9300 Lee Highway
Fairfax, VA 22031
Attention: Environmental filing, Docket No. FD 36284

The 45-day comment period concludes Dec. 14.

Drexel Hamilton Infrastructure Partners purchased the right to develop the line from the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition earlier this year [see “Drexel Hamilton purchases right to develop Utah rail project,” Trains News Wire, Sept. 8, 2020]. Railroad holding company Rio Grande Pacific will manage operations. Additional News Wire articles on the project are available here, here, here, and here.

— Updated at 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 31 with details on the meaning of “significance” in an environmental impact report, additional links to earlier coverage.

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