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Thursday, December 06, 2012    

STB schedules oral argument for BNSF, Union Pacific dispute; extends comment deadline for proposed Tongue River line study


The Surface Transportation Board (STB) has scheduled an oral argument on Jan. 15 to address a claim arising out of the Union Pacific Railroad-Southern Pacific Railroad merger settlement agreement between BNSF Railway Co. and UP.

BNSF and G3 Enterprises — a wine, spirits, specialty food and beverage supplier — seek competitive rail access via reciprocal switching at G3's Modesto, Calif., facility under the agreement's terms. BNSF and G3 argue that UP must adhere to representations made to the Modesto and Empire Traction Co. (MET) in a December 1995 letter in which UP stated that it had no intention of diminishing the current switching district of Modesto. BNSF and G3 also claim that UP's actions are anti-competitive because they eliminated all competitive service alternatives from the facility.

UP argues that BNSF and G3 are not entitled to relief because when G3 purchased the facility in 2001, after the merger's implementation, it was served only by UP and was not open to reciprocal switching.

STB members will hear presentations on behalf of BNSF, G3 and UP. MET representatives have been invited, but are not required to participate, board members said in an oral argument announcement. Each side will have 20 minutes to argue their position and respond to STB members' questions.

Meanwhile, the STB's Office of Environmental Analysis has extended the deadline for filing comments on a draft scope of study for an environmental impact statement regarding the Tongue River Railroad Co. Inc.'s (TRRC) proposed coal line. Instead of Dec. 6, the new deadline is Jan. 11, 2013.

TRRC plans to construct and operate an 83-mile line between Miles City, Mont., and two ending points, one near the site of a previously planned Montco mine near Ashland, Mont., and the other at the proposed Otter Creek mine in an area east of Ashland. The line's owners include BNSF and Arch Coal Inc.

The STB recently clarified that it will review TRRC's line construction proposal in its entirety, including a new environmental review of the project and the line's transportation merits. The due date for comments in support of, or opposition to, TRRC's STB application is March 1, 2013, and the due date for TRRC's reply comments is April 15, 2013.

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