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Vaughan Railroad seeks STB approval to build coal mine-serving line in West Virginia


Earlier this month, Vaughan Railroad Co. filed a petition with the Surface Transportation Board (STB) seeking an exemption from the prior approval requirements to construct a 5.5-mile line near Morgantown, W.Va.

Owned by CONSOL Energy Inc., Vaughan Railroad plans to build the line to provide rail service to a new coal mine under development by CONSOL Energy subsidiary Wolfpen Knob Development Co. The "Mason-Dixon" line would connect with a nearby Norfolk Southern Railway line.

After the Mason-Dixon line is completed, NS would serve as operator. Although Vaughan Railroad is a Class III common carrier, the company has no operating employees and rail operations over its existing 18-mile line in southern West Virginia are handled by NS and CSX Transportation, the filing states.

Located about 23 miles west of Morgantown, the new mine is expected to be one of the largest bituminous coal producers in the eastern U.S., according to the filing. The mine will be designed to accommodate unit trains and ship 8.5 million tons of coal annually.

The STB should exempt the line's construction and operation from prior approval requirements in part because detailed regulatory scrutiny of the proposal is not needed to protect shippers from an abuse of market power, Vaughan Railroad officials wrote in the filing. In addition, the STB and its predecessor the Interstate Commerce Commission have exempted a number of similar transactions over the years, the officials claim.