Martin and Indian River Counties, CARE FL Request U.S. DOT to Prepare
a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement of AAF Passenger Rail Project
County officials, local leaders call 2015 EIS stale and aged
Treasure Coast officials and concerned residents are calling a 2015 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) regarding the All Aboard Florida (AAF) passenger rail and freight project stale and aged. In a 24-page letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), Martin and Indian River Counties along with Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida (CARE FL) give more than 15 reasons why a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) is necessary before the issuance of a Record of Decision (ROD). The letter reviews deficiencies in the August 2015 FEIS and sets forth significant new circumstances and information since the issuance of the FEIS that merit careful examination in a SEIS.
“The Draft Environmental Impact Statement was completed in 2014 and the FEIS was released on August 4, 2015—nearly two years ago,” said Ruth Holmes, Senior Assistant Martin County Attorney. “In those two years, the document has grown stale and there have been a number of new circumstances that warrant DOT’s careful reconsideration by way of a SEIS.”
Those circumstances include some of the following:
- The project’s constructed and newly constructed bridges that will cause flooding;
- Concerns about public safety not being addressed by the original FEIS;
- The proximity of the rail to the U.S. President’s property in Palm Beach County;
- The FEIS’ failure to consider the potential for an additional station in Brevard County;
- The failure by AAF to launch as projected in 2016;
- Change in ownership of Fortress and Florida East Coast Industries that creates significant environmental uncertainties based on environmental accidents by the new owners; and
- Grave concerns about the use and transportation of LNG across the state.
“Adding LNG to the list of dangerous and hazardous substances on existing FECR freight trains is an additional public safety factor that has evolved since the publication of the FEIS,” said Brent Hanlon, Chairman of CARE FL. “The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires consideration of such new commodities and their impact on public safety and the environment.”
Local governments have a fundamental interest in ensuring that projects within their boundaries are designed, constructed and operated to be as safe as possible. However, their ability to protect such interests through the imposition of safety requirements is limited by principles of federal preemption with respect to railroad projects, since under federal law the power to regulate railroad safety is wielded primarily by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
The FEIS dismisses valid public safety concerns stating that the AAF project ‘…would comply with all relevant health and safety regulations and would not adversely impact the public’s health and safety.’ The counties and residents of the Treasure Coast region strongly disagree with that argument.
“These unsupported generalities are no substitute for the careful analysis and public airing of potential impacts that NEPA demands, and such deficiencies may only be cured by a SEIS that is subject to the public review procedures of NEPA,” said Dylan Reingold, Indian River County Attorney. “Our top priority is ensuring the safety of our residents and motorists.”
For more information please visit www.martin.fl.us, www.ircgov.com, and CARE FL’s site at www.saveourfl.com.