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Chicago-area coalition calls on U.S. appellate court to block CN/EJ&E transaction


Last week, a coalition of 11 communities and one county in the Chicago area filed a petition with a U.S. appellate court requesting that the court review the Surface Transportation Board’s (STB) approval of the Canadian National Railway Co./Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway Co. (EJ&E) transaction and issue a stay to prevent the Class I from taking possession of a major portion of the regional until the review’s completed.

The Regional Answer to CN (TRAC) coalition long has opposed the transaction. Coalition members Aurora, Barrington Hills, Barrington Township, Bartlett, Hawthorn Woods, Lake Zurich, Naperville, Plainfield, Warrenville, Wayne, West Chicago and DuPage County, Ill., joined in the petition.

The STB's approval process was “incomplete” because board members neglected to address numerous issues raised during the study phase, such as the quadrupling of trains moving through suburban communities, TRAC members claim.

Last month, the STB rendered a decision approving the transaction, subject to numerous environmental mitigation and other conditions. The decision takes effect on Friday. CN expects to close the transaction — under which it will acquire most of the EJ&E from U.S. Steel for $300 million — shortly afterwards.

Meanwhile, the STB on Friday rejected petitions submitted by Barrington, Bartlett and Will County, Ill., seeking a stay of the board’s CN/EJ&E decision.

A party seeking a stay must establish that they will suffer irreparable harm in the absence of a stay; there is a strong likelihood that they will prevail on the merits; other interested parties will not be substantially harmed by a stay; and the public interest supports the granting of a stay, according to the STB.

“None of the petitioners challenge the board’s findings on the transportation merits. Rather, they claim that the Environmental Impact Statement did not adequately address, evaluate or mitigate the environmental effects of this acquisition,” board members said in their decision.  “As both the Draft and Final EIS show, however, this agency took the ‘hard look’ at environmental impacts … and the issues raised by petitioners have been considered adequately.”

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/20/2009