Description: Challenge to approval of application to build 130-mile rail line in Montana to haul coal.
Northern Plains Resource Council v. Surface Transportation Board
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 12/29/2011 Opinion Download Reverses and remands in part the trial court's decision approving the Tongue River Railroad Co.'s proposed 130-mile railroad lines (TRRC II and III). The Ninth Circuit reversed in part a decision by the Surface Transportation Board approving an application from a railroad company to build a 130-mile railroad line in southwestern Montana to haul coal, holding that the agency failed to take the requisite “hard look” at several environmental issues raised by the project. Specifically, the court held that the agency’s environmental impact statement (EIS) concerning the proposed line adequately considered the cumulative effect of the coal bed methane wells and the railroad on air quality and wildlife. However, the court held that the EIS ignored the combined impacts of future well development and coal mining projects in the area, improperly relying on a five-year timeline which resulted in a faulty analysis. The court also held that the EIS did not provide baseline data for many wildlife and sensitive plant species.