|SURFACE TRANSPORTATION BOARD DECISION DOCUMENT|
|GREENVILLE COUNTY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION--ABANDONMENT AND DISCONTINUANCE EXEMPTION--IN GREENVILLE COUNTY, SC|
|GRANTED GREENVILLE COUNTY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION AN EXEMPTION UNDER 49 U.S.C. 10502 FROM THE PRIOR APPROVAL REQUIREMENTS OF 49 U.S.C. 10903 TO ABANDON APPROXIMATELY 11.8 MILES OF RAIL LINE, EXTENDING FROM MILEPOST 0.0 IN GREENVILLE, SC, TO MILEPOST 11.8 IN TRAVELERS REST, SC (NORTHERN SEGMENT), AND TO DISCONTINUE SERVICE OVER 3.29 MILES OF RAIL LINE, EXTENDING FROM MILEPOST AJK 585.34 IN EAST GREENVILLE, SC, TO MILEPOST AJK 588.63 IN GREENVILLE (SOUTHERN SEGMENT), GREENVILLE COUNTY, SC, SUBJECT TO ENVIRONMENTAL, PUBLIC USE, AND TRAIL USE CONDITIONS.|
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|Full Text of Decision|
DATE – LATE RELEASE
SURFACE TRANSPORTATION BOARD
DECISION AND NOTICE OF INTERIM TRAIL USE OR ABANDONMENT
STB Docket No. AB-490 (Sub-No. 1X)
By petition filed on
June 24, 2005, Greenville County Economic Development Corporation
(GCEDC) seeks an exemption under 49 U.S.C. 10502 from the prior approval
requirements of 49 U.S.C. 10903 to abandon approximately 11.8 miles of rail line,
extending from milepost 0.0 in Greenville, SC, to milepost 11.8 in Travelers
Rest, SC (Northern Segment), and to discontinue service over 3.29 miles of rail
line, extending from milepost AJK 585.34 in East Greenville, SC, to milepost
AJK 588.63 in Greenville (Southern Segment), Greenville County, SC. Notice of the filing was served and published
in the Federal Register on July 14, 2005 (70 FR 40782)
(July 14, 2005 notice). On
GCEDC acquired the Northern and Southern Segments from South Carolina Central Railroad Company, Inc. (SCCR), in 1999.  The Northern Segment was subject to an embargo instituted by SCCR in December 1997. According to GCEDC, the embargo remains in effect due to the condition of the bridges and track. Prior to GCEDC’s purchase, SCCR had obtained authority to abandon the southernmost 2 miles of the Northern Segment and the entire Southern Segment, which at the time had one shipper. SCCR never exercised the abandonment authority, and instead sold the lines to GCEDC.
Upon purchasing the lines, GCEDC contracted with SCCR to operate the Southern Segment; SCCR declined to operate the Northern Segment. GCEDC asserts that it looked for an operator that would be willing to operate the Northern Segment without a substantial capital expenditure by GCEDC to repair the track but could not find one. As a result, no traffic has moved over the Northern Segment since February 1998.
GCEDC estimates that it would cost approximately $3 million to repair a 2.6-mile section of the Northern Segment to Federal Railroad Administration Class 1 track safety standards, which it asserts could never be recouped based on the limited to non-existent traffic base for the lines. GCEDC states that, while the Southern Segment does not require as extensive rehabilitation as the Northern Segment, it does require some track work.
In April 2001, Groome & Associates, Inc., the
second largest shipper on the Northern Segment until going out of business, and
Lee K. Groome (jointly, Groome) filed suit against GCEDC in South Carolina
state court for alleged violation of GCEDC’s common carrier obligation over the
Northern Segment. The state court denied
Groome’s claims. Then, on
In August 2004, Groome filed a formal complaint with the Board, asserting that GCEDC violated its common carrier obligation and asking for damages. In Groome & Associates, Inc. and Lee K. Groome v. Greenville County Economic Development Corporation, STB Docket No. 42087 (STB served July 27, 2005) (July 2005 decision), we found that GCEDC had not violated its common carrier obligation by failing to make repairs and provide service as soon as it took over the line, but that, after a reasonable period, GCEDC was required either to put the line back into service or to take steps to obtain abandonment or discontinuance authority. We thus awarded damages to Groome for the increased storage, handling, and shipping costs resulting from the lack of rail service from August 2002 (2 years before the filing of the complaint) until the time Groome went out of business.
According to GCEDC, there are no active rail shippers on either segment and any shipper that had previously used the Northern Segment has either gone out of business, relocated, or is now using truck transportation. Historic traffic statistics for the Northern Segment show 1,642 carloads in 1994, 1,497 carloads in 1995, and 1,066 carloads in 1996. GCEDC states that, to its knowledge, no traffic has moved over the Southern Segment for 2 years.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS
Under 49 U.S.C. 10903, a rail line may not be abandoned or service over it discontinued without our prior approval. Under 49 U.S.C. 10502, however, we must exempt a transaction or service from regulation when we find that: (1) continued regulation is not necessary to carry out the rail transportation policy of 49 U.S.C. 10101; and (2) either (a) the transaction or service is of limited scope, or (b) regulation is not necessary to protect shippers from the abuse of market power.
case, detailed scrutiny under 49 U.S.C. 10903 is not necessary to carry out the
rail transportation policy. Although
shippers express opposition to the abandonment and discontinuance, they offer
no concrete evidence in support of their position.
Moreover, while citing increased transportation costs because of a lack of rail service, shippers have not disputed GCEDC’s estimated repair costs and have not committed to ship any traffic with GCEDC. Accordingly, requiring GCEDC to expend significant funds to repair and provide service on the line when there is only the potential for traffic would be an unreasonable burden on GCEDC. By minimizing the administrative expense of the application process, an exemption will reduce regulatory barriers to exit [49 U.S.C. 10101(7)]. An exemption will also foster sound economic conditions and encourage efficient management by relieving GCEDC of the expense of rehabilitating and maintaining lines that are no longer used [49 U.S.C. 10101(5) and (9)]. Other aspects of the rail transportation policy will not be affected adversely.
Regulation of the proposed transaction is not necessary to protect shippers from the abuse of market power. While there are shippers on the Northern Segment that oppose the abandonment, some have never used rail service, and others have used no rail service since prior to GCEDC’s purchase of the line. There are currently no active shippers on either the Northern or Southern Segments. Nevertheless, to ensure that the businesses on both segments are informed of our action, we will require GCEDC to serve a copy of this decision on them within 5 days of the service date of this decision and notice and certify to the Board that it has done so. Given our market power finding, we need not determine whether the proposed abandonment and discontinuance are limited in scope.
U.S.C. 10502(g), we may not use our exemption authority to relieve a carrier of
its statutory obligation to protect the interests of its employees. However, GCEDC’s proposal to abandon and
discontinue service over the Northern and Southern Segments constitutes its
entire operations. When authorizing abandonment
of railroad lines that constitute the carrier’s entire system, we do not impose
labor protection, with some exceptions not present here. See
submitted an environmental report with its petition and has notified the
appropriate Federal, state, and local agencies of the opportunity to submit
information concerning the energy and environmental impact of the proposed
action. See 49 CFR 1105.11. The Board’s Section of Environmental Analysis
(SEA) has examined the environmental report, verified the data it contains, and
analyzed the probable effects of the proposed action on the quality of the
human environment. SEA served an
environmental assessment (EA) on
In the EA, SEA notes that the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Geodetic Survey (NGS), had not yet responded to contacts by GCEDC regarding the impacts to geodetic station markers. Therefore, SEA recommends that GCEDC notify NGS at least 90 days prior to conducting any salvage activities that may disturb or destroy any geodetic markers and report the results of its notification in writing to SEA prior to beginning salvage operations.
notes in the EA that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has confirmed the
presence of two federally listed plant species, the Dwarf-flowered Hearthleaf
(Hexastylis naniflora) and the Bunched Arrowhead (Sagittaria fasciculate), in
wetland and spring habitats near the right-of-way in Travelers Rest. Based on a field survey, populations of
Bunched Arrowhead were found in two areas along the west side of the
right-of-way, south of
SEA further notes in the EA that the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) raised concerns regarding impacts to state waters in accordance with sections 401, 402, and 404 of the Clean Water Act. Therefore, SEA recommends that prior to the commencement of any salvage activities, GCEDC be required to consult with SCDHEC to ensure that any concerns regarding potential contamination of the right-of-way and the need for a section 402 stormwater construction permit are addressed, and report the results of its consultation to SEA in writing prior to beginning any salvage operations.
SEA received 7 comments and/ or clarifications from various agencies and individuals in response to the EA. Based on the comments received, SEA would remove one condition and add one condition. SEA states that the NGS has determined that there are no geodetic station markers within the proposed abandonment and, therefore, SEA no longer recommends that a condition to notify NGS be imposed.
SEA states that the EA erroneously reported that there were no known hazardous waste sites or hazardous materials spills on either rail segment. However, information submitted by Mr. Hawkins, President of the Western Carolina Railway Service Corporation (WCRSC), from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund Information Systems (CERCLIS) database indicates that there are three confirmed Superfund sites located adjacent to the Northern Segment: U.S. Finishing Fire in Greenville; Kerr Waste Treatment Plant in Travelers Rest; and Travelers Rest Granite Quarry in Travelers Rest. According to Mr. Hawkins, both U.S. Finishing Fire and Kerr Waste Treatment Plant are rail-served, with sidings in place, while Travelers Rest Granite Quarry was formerly rail-served but no longer has tracks in place. SEA has learned from Mr. Chris Bartley of the Federal and State Site Assessment Section, Bureau of Land and Waste Management, SCDHEC, that hazardous waste from the U.S. Finishing Fire has been confirmed in surface water and groundwater immediately adjacent to the rail right-of-way. Mr. Bartley agreed that salvage activities could discharge pollutants into the air, soil, and water, if contaminants from the CERCLIS sites were also present in the rail right-of-way. Accordingly, in light of the concerns raised regarding three confirmed CERCLIS Superfund sites, SEA recommends that, prior to salvage of any track materials adjacent to the portions of the identified sites of contamination, GCEDC consult with the appropriate parties and take measures recommended by SCDHEC, Bureau of Land and Waste Management, and the Region 4, EPA, and report the results of the consultation in writing to the Board.
The environmental conditions recommended by SEA in the EA, as supplemented and modified based on comments received, will be imposed. Based on SEA’s recommendation, we conclude that the proposed abandonment, if implemented as conditioned, will not significantly affect either the quality of the human environment or the conservation of energy resources.
previously noted, Upstate Forever has filed a request for the issuance of a
NITU under the National Trails System Act, 16 U.S.C. 1247(d) (Trails Act), and
for imposition of a public use condition under 49 U.S.C. 10905 for the Northern
Segment. Upstate Forever has submitted a
statement of willingness to assume financial responsibility for the
right-of-way, and has acknowledged that use of the right-of-way is subject to
possible future reconstruction and reactivation of the right-of-way for rail
service, as required under 49 CFR 1152.29.
By letter filed on
BRW objects to the abandonment because it does not want the portion of the Northern Segment that runs though its property turned into a trail. BRW states that reinstatement of rail service would be of greatest benefit to it and to the community, but if active rail service is not reinstated, the right-of-way should no longer be part of the national rail system and the full and exclusive use of the land should be returned to adjacent landowners. BRW asserts that opening up its property to the general public in the form of a trail would expose the community and the nation to unnecessary risk. Our role, however, under the Trails Act is limited and ministerial. See Goos v. ICC, 911 F.2d 1283 (8th Cir. 1990). Our only responsibility when a request for a NITU is filed is to confirm that the trail user agrees to assume full liability for the property during the interim trail use period and to keep the property available for reactivation of rail service. 16 U.S.C. 1247(d); 49 CFR 1152.29(a)(3). We do not decide whether interim trail use is desirable for a particular line and do not analyze, approve, set the terms of–or even require that parties submit to the Board–their trail use agreements.
indicated in its EA that, following abandonment and salvage of the line, the
right-of-way may be suitable for other public uses. Upstate Forever
requests imposition of a 180-day public use condition. Upstate Forever states that the Northern
Segment follows the
Persons who request a Trails Act condition may also request a public use condition under 49 U.S.C. 10905. See Rails Abandonment – Use of Rights-of-Way as Trails, 2 I.C.C.2d 591, 609 (1986) (Trails). When both conditions are appropriate, it is our policy to impose them concurrently, subject to the execution of a trail use agreement. Upstate Forever has met the public use criteria prescribed at 49 CFR 1152.28(a)(2) by specifying: (1) the condition sought; (2) the public importance of the condition; (3) the period of time for which the condition would be effective; and (4) justification for the period of time requested. Accordingly, a 180-day public use condition, commencing from the effective date of this decision and notice, will be imposed on the Northern Segment to enable any state or local government agency or other interested person to negotiate the acquisition of the Northern Segment for public use. If a trail use agreement is reached on a portion of the Northern Segment, GCEDC must keep the remaining right-of-way on the Northern Segment intact for the remainder of the 180-day period to permit public use negotiations. Also, we note that a public use condition is not imposed for the benefit of any one potential purchaser. Rather, it provides an opportunity for any interested person to negotiate to acquire the right-of-way that has been found suitable for public purposes, including trail use. Therefore, with respect to the public use condition, GCEDC is not required to deal exclusively with Upstate Forever, but may engage in negotiations with other interested persons.
The parties should note that operation of the trail use procedures could be delayed, or even foreclosed, by the financial assistance process under 49 U.S.C. 10904. As stated in Trails, 2 I.C.C.2d at 608, offers of financial assistance (OFA) to acquire rail lines for continued rail service or to subsidize rail operations takes priority over interim trail use/rail banking. Accordingly, if an OFA is timely filed under 49 CFR 1152.27(c)(1), the effective date of this decision and notice will be postponed beyond the effective date indicated here. See 49 CFR 1152.27(e)(2) and (f). Finally, if the line is sold under the OFA procedures, the petition for abandonment exemption will be dismissed and interim trail use precluded. Alternatively, if a sale under the OFA procedures does not occur, the interim trail use process may proceed.
This action as conditioned will not significantly affect either the quality of the human environment or the conservation of energy resources.
It is ordered:
1. Under 49 U.S.C. 10502, we exempt from the prior approval requirements of 49 U.S.C. 10903 the abandonment of the Northern Segment and discontinuance of the Southern Segment by GCEDC of the above-described line, subject to the conditions that GCEDC shall: (1) comply with the terms and conditions for implementing interim trail use/rail banking, as set forth below; (2) leave intact all of the right-of-way, including bridges, trestles, culverts and tunnels (except track, ties, and signal equipment) for a period of 180 days from the effective date of this decision and notice, to enable any state or local government agency or any other interested person to negotiate the acquisition of the line for public use; (3) during salvage operations, restrict herbicide use within 50 feet of the federally listed and field surveyed Bunched Arrowhead and any herbicide application must be in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions; (4) prior to beginning any salvage operations, consult with SCDHEC to ensure that any concerns regarding potential contamination of the right-of-way and the need for a section 402 stormwater construction permit are addressed, and report the results of its consultation to SEA in writing; and (5) prior to beginning any salvage operations, consult with the appropriate parties and take measures recommended by SCDHEC, Bureau of Land and Waste Management, and the Region 4, EPA, and report the results of the consultation in writing to the Board prior to beginning any salvage operations.
2. GCEDC must serve a copy of this decision on all businesses on the Northern and Southern Segments within 5 days after the service date of this decision and certify to the Board that it has done so.
3. If an interim trail use/rail banking agreement for the Northern Segment is reached, it must require the trail user to assume, for the term of the agreement, full responsibility for management of, any legal liability arising out of the transfer or use of (unless the user is immune from liability, in which case it need only indemnify the railroad against any potential liability), and for the payment of any and all taxes that may be levied or assessed against, the right-of-way.
4. Interim trail use/rail banking is subject to the future restoration of rail service and to the user’s continuing to meet the financial obligations for the right-of-way.
5. If interim trail use is implemented and subsequently the user intends to terminate trail use, it must send the Board a copy of this decision and notice and request that it be vacated on a specified date.
6. If an agreement for interim trail use/rail banking is reached by 180th day after service of this decision and notice, interim trail use may be implemented. If no agreement is reached by that time, GCEDC may fully abandon the line, provided the conditions imposed above are met.
7. An OFA under 49 CFR 1152.27(c)(1) to allow rail service to continue must be received by
the railroad and the Board by
8. OFAs and related correspondence to the Board must refer to this proceeding. The following notation must be typed in bold face on the lower left-hand corner of the envelope: “Office of Proceedings, AB-OFA.”
9. If no OFA is received, the exemption will
become effective on
10. Pursuant to the provisions of 49 CFR
1152.29(e)(2), GCEDC shall file a notice of
consummation with the Board to signify that it has exercised the authority
granted and fully abandoned the Northern Segment of the line. If consummation has not been effected by
GCEDC’s filing of a notice of consummation by
By the Board, Chairman Nober, Vice Chairman Buttrey, and Commissioner Mulvey.
 The Northern and Southern Segments do not connect.
 See Greenville County Economic Development Corporation – Acquisition Exemption – South Carolina Central Railroad Company, Inc., Carolina Piedmont Division, STB Finance Docket No. 33752 (STB served June 3, 1999).
 See South
Carolina Central Railroad Company, Inc., d/b/a
 GCEDC contends that the capital expenditures required by potential operators simply exceeded the funds available to GCEDC.
 According to GCEDC, it would have to charge rates of over $1,400 per car, which is significantly higher than the approximately $400 per car that shippers were paying prior to the embargo.
 An OFA could be filed to acquire the Northern Segment for the purpose of continuing rail service or to subsidize operations over the Southern Segment (over which service is proposed to be discontinued but not abandoned).