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Thursday, July 11, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Enviro Groups Blow Whistle on Giant Rail Yard

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (CN) - The Army Corps of Engineers steamrollered environmental laws by authorizing construction of a massive rail yard in Kansas, the Natural Resources Defense Council claims in Federal Court. The environmental group claims the Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act by authorizing the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway to build more than 7 million square feet of buildings on 500 acres.

The Corps of Engineers issued permits so the railroad can build and operate a 500-acre facility to transfer and load of cargo to and from trains and trucks. It will include a warehouse and distribution center called a logistics park where cargo owners can store freight.

"With very few exceptions, such vehicles and equipment will be diesel-powered, and result in the release of toxic diesel exhaust," the NRDC says.

"The Logistics Park will be located adjacent to the Gardner IMF (intermodal facility) and could encompass 7 to 12 million square feet of warehousing space. Operations at the Logistics Park will involve the use of trucks to move cargo to, from, and within the facility, off-road equipment used to lift containers off and on trucks, and transportation refrigeration units. Such vehicles and equipment will be diesel-powered, and result in the release of toxic diesel exhaust. The Logistics Park will also generate a large amount of non-truck (e.g., passenger vehicle) traffic to and from the facility, which will also generate air pollution."

The NRDC says Burlington could operate more than 110 trains a day and that 33,500 trucks and other vehicles would travel to and from the site daily. It says Burlington already has two other operations in nearby counties.

In 2007, the Kansas metropolitan region exceeded federal air quality standards for ozone. Despite this, the NRDC says the Corps of Engineers issued the permit to Burlington without completing an environmental impact statement. It claims the Corps of Engineers prepared an environmental assessment that failed to consider the full impact on local and regional air quality and public health.

"The diesel-powered vehicles and equipment used at the Gardner IMF and Logistics Park will emit, among other pollutants, ozone forming oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds, and particulate matter," according to the complaint. "Inhalation of ozone and particulate matter are associated with a host of health ailments, including premature death, aggravated asthma and other respiratory illnesses, increased risk of cancer, and heart disease."

The NRDC wants the project enjoined until the Corps of Engineers follows NEPA guidelines, which include completing an environmental impact statement. The NRDC is represented by Mark Dugan with Dugan Schlozman in Overland Park, Kan.

The railroad is not named as a defendant.

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