Lugar, Bayh, Daniels, Visclosky Request More STB Hearings in Northwest Indiana and Extended Comment Period on CN/EJ&E
Senators Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh, Governor Mitch Daniels, and Congressman Pete Visclosky today filed a letter with the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to request a second public hearing in Northwest Indiana on the pending CN/EJ&E transaction and to extend the public comment period by at least 30 days. The only public hearing scheduled in Northwest Indiana will take place on Wednesday, September 10, from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Indiana University Northwest, and the public comment period is scheduled to close on September 30.
"It is important that Hoosiers in Northwest Indiana have the ability to have their thoughts and concerns heard by the STB," Lugar said. "I appreciated the STB supporting our request for an Environmental Impact Study and I am hopeful this request for increased transparency and communication will be accommodated."
"All Hoosiers deserve to have a voice in important decisions that will shape the future of their communities," said Bayh. "A premature deadline for public comment risks shutting out the residents whose daily lives would be impacted by this deal. Regardless of the final outcome, this process must ensure that the views of Hoosiers from across the region are heard and respected. A second hearing should be held, and the public comment period extended."
"With the significant impact on Northwest Indiana and the great desire by individuals and local governments to participate in the STB process, I join our federal representatives in calling for an extension of the public comment period and at least one additional hearing in Indiana where our citizens and policymakers have ample opportunity to have their voices heard," said Daniels.
"The lives of people in Northwest Indiana will be significantly impacted if the CN/EJ&E transaction is approved," said Visclosky. "We deserve every opportunity possible to express our concerns over the safety, environmental, and quality of life issues surrounding this deal. The public comments have been extensive so far, and the STB ought to provide further public comment opportunities so that everybody's voice may be heard. I hope the STB honors these two simple requests, and I encourage the people of Northwest Indiana to attend this week's public hearing in Gary, learn more about the transaction, and take advantage of the remaining public comment period."
In the letter, Lugar, Bayh, Daniels, and Visclosky note that the more than 250,000 residents of Dyer, Schererville, Griffith, Gary, Hammond, East Chicago, and Whiting, Northwest Indiana's impacted communities, "will each experience significantly more train traffic, which will result in increased congestion and air-pollution from cars waiting at grade crossings, and an increase in the risk of vehicle-train and pedestrian-train collisions." Because of the extensive impacts on Northwest Indiana and the unprecedented level of input from interested parties, the letter requests additional public hearings in Indiana and an extension of the public comment period by a minimum of 30 days.
The following is the letter Lugar, Bayh, Daniels, and Visclosky sent to the STB:
September 8, 2008
Ms. Anne K. Quinlan
Surface Transportation Board
395 E Street, Southwest
Washington, D.C. 20423
RE: Canadian National Railway Company and Grand Trunk Corporation ControlEJ&E West Company (STB Finance Docket No. 35087)
Dear Ms. Quinlan:
We are writing to request that the Section on Environmental Analysis (SEA) of the Surface Transportation Board (STB) schedule additional public hearings in Indiana to receive comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and extend the length of the public comment period for the proposed acquisition of the Elgin, Joliet, & Eastern Railroad (EJ&E) by Canadian National Railroad (CN).
As noted by those involved in this proceeding, including staff of the SEA, the level of input from interested parties has been unprecedented. In the formation of the Draft EIS, the SEA received over 5,000 registered comments submitted by individuals, business owners, transportation organizations, and elected officials. Many of these comments expressed concerns over the effect the dramatic increase in train traffic proposed by CN will have on the quality of life in their communities. Further, the affected communities in Indiana and Illinois have formed a broad coalition to advocate their collective interests on the proposed acquisition, which leads us to believe that public interest will increase significantly during the comment period for the Draft EIS. However, despite this tremendous demonstration of concern by the public, the SEA adopted a hearing schedule that will not provide a sufficient opportunity for many of our constituents to participate.
In Indiana, the towns of Dyer, Schererville, Griffith and the cities of Gary, Hammond, East Chicago, and Whiting will each experience significantly more train traffic, which will result in increased congestion and air-pollution from cars waiting at grade crossings, and an increase in the risk of vehicle-train and pedestrian-train collisions. Yet, the over 250,000 residents of these seven municipalities will only have a single opportunity to participate in a public meeting on the Draft EIS. We strongly urge the SEA to hold an additional hearing in Northwest Indiana to allow the residents of the region an ample opportunity to express their concerns with the impact of this transaction.
In addition, the SEA provided only a 60-day public comment period for the Draft EIS. This comment period is merely 15 days more than the minimum number of days for public review set forth in the Council of Environmental Quality regulations. Given the breadth and magnitude of the multi-volume Draft EIS released by the SEA and the number of concerned citizens along the EJ&E arc, this 60-day period does not provide adequate time for interested parties, agencies, government entities, and members of the general public to analyze and comment on all aspects of the transaction. We strongly urge the SEA to extend the public comment period by a minimum of 30 days to give the impacted parties adequate time to evaluate the Draft EIS.
We appreciate your serious consideration of this matter.
Richard G. Lugar
United States Senator
United States Senator
Peter J. Visclosky
Member of Congress
Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr.
Governor of Indiana
Cc: Chairman Charles "Chip" Nottingham
Cc: Vice Chairman Francis P. Mulvey
Cc: Board Member W. Douglas Buttrey
Cc: Ms. Victoria J. Rutson
Cc: All Parties of Record