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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Steam Train A-Not-Comin'! DM&E Coal Line on Hold

Did anyone else catch this? (Oh, well, of course Kevin Woster did.) The Dakota Minnesota & Eastern Railroad filed papers in federal court in Wyoming yesterday to drop its condemnation actions against several Wyoming landowners. That's good news in itself: any day landowners escape eminent domain proceedings is a happy day in my book. One attorney for the Wyoming landowners says DM&E probably spent more on litigation than it offered the landowners for right-of-way across their land... so serves DM&E right!

But the court papers contain bigger news: DM&E isn't dropping the eminent domain push because it just became the Good Fairy of Property Rights. DM&E is dropping the suits because it is dropping (for now) its Powder River Basin coal train project:

[DM&E says in the court papers] “There are uncertainties regarding the time when DM&E will be able to meet the necessary thresholds for the project, and it is clear that the project will not proceed in the immediate term.”

...In today’s filing, DM&E’s attorneys also stated, “Due to significant changes in the economic climate, DM&E cannot say that there is a reasonable probability that it will proceed with its Powder River Basin project in the near term.”

...“Available financing has tightened, and the country has seen a record economic downturn altering the strategic growth plans of nearly every industry in the country,” DM&E attorney wrote. “This has resulted in a longer timeframe for commencement of the project than anticipated at the time these condemnation actions were filed” [Dustin Bleizeffer, "DM&E Drops Condemnation Against Wyo Landowners; Railroad Suspends Powder River Basin Project," Casper Star-Tribune, 2009.08.26].

More cause to celebrate:
  • The Powder River Basin Project is the same project that would have sent coal trains rushing along refurbished track in South Dakota and Minnesota. DM&E might still go condemning land for other purposes here in South Dakota, but with this project on hold, the company has that much less reason to do so.
  • Score another victory for recession: if industries are slowing down enough to stop this rail project, that means they're also slowing down enough to use less coal. That means less emissions, less pollution, less demand for new coal plants... and more energy resources saved up for our great-grandkids.
Funny how a few legal papers can brighten one's day. Yahoo!

Update 15:15 CDT: Don't celebrate too hard, South Dakota. I hear on SDPB that Mike LoVecchio, spokesman for DM&E's parent company Canadian Pacific, is changing the story, saying the project isn't on hold, but that the company simply plans to deal directly with Wyoming landowners. The rail line will still happen; they'll just wait until the economy improves.

And here in South Dakota, CP/DM&E are still more than happy to have the power to take your land (remember 2008's SB 174?), granted to them by a Republican legislature. Grrrrr....

1 comment:

  1. Kelly Fuller8/27/2009 8:34 PM

    The "update" from the company sure sounds like spin, possibly caused by the multi-state celebration and groups who are counting this as a victory against coal.

    It takes a lot of courage and determination for a landowner to face a powerful company in court condemnation proceedings, and it's not likely that those folks will suddenly become pliable and willing to deal with the company "directly." Even if the railroad was willing to drastically increase the money it was offering landowners, some are not going to sell, period.


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