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BNSF to appeal court ruling against Southern California intermodal project


BNSF Railway Co. is appealing a judge's ruling against the Class I's proposal to build the Southern California International Gateway (SCIG) rail yard near the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

In March, a California judge determined that an environmental review of the SCIG was insufficient, and ordered the city of Los Angeles and the Board of Harbor Commissioners to set aside their approvals of the project.

"The appeal will contend that the ruling is incorrect, as the lower court applied an inappropriate evidentiary standard and disregarded a comprehensive eight-year environmental review in making its ruling," BNSF officials said in a press release.

Unless the ruling is reversed, BNSF is unlikely to proceed with the $500 million project, they said.

The Port of Los Angeles also is appealing the judge's ruling.

BNSF officials believe the judge's ruling was an incorrect and unprecedented expansion of the scope of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review, according to Roger Nober, BNSF's executive vice president of law and corporate affairs and chief legal officer.

The ruling was incorrect in that it applied the CEQA review "to encompass existing facilities distant and distinct from the SCIG project itself, and the precedential effect that ruling may have on the development of other rail facilities, port projects and other much-needed infrastructure in California," said Nober.

"Unless this ruling is promptly and entirely reversed, building SCIG is less likely due to the costs and delay brought on by the CEQA lawsuits," he said. "This ruling is a loss for the region and it sends a strong message that green investment is unwelcome in California. The community and broader region won't benefit from the traffic reductions, air quality improvements and good jobs SCIG would have brought."

Nober also thanked the Port of Los Angeles for its support of BNSF's proposal, which the two parties have worked on for more than a decade.

"BNSF is confident the appellate court will correctly apply the law, reverse the lower court ruling and maintain the existing scope of CEQA," BNSF officials stated in the press release.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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