Media Release 06/08/11:
Coalition Warns of Legal Action if Freight Rail Agency Approves Environmental Report on Reopening Tracks

Contact: Patty Clary, Californians for Alternatives to Toxics 707-445-5100

For More Information:

CATs' Notice of Intent (197 kb pdf file)

Comments on proposed changes to Novato Consent Decree and SMART MOU (1.4 MB pdf)

June 8, 2011. A coalition of environmental groups has warned the North Coast Rail Authority (NCRA) that it will file a lawsuit if the agency certifies an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and approves reconstruction of a derelict rail line to begin operating freight trains between Lombard and Willits.

The freight rail agency’s plans to approve reopening the line depend on acceptance of a controversial operations agreement by financially struggling Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART), which plans to run commuter rail on the same tracks.

NCRA must also win approval from Novato for changes to a court-ordered settlement on the impacts of freight trains that it hopes to soon have rumbling through the Marin town.

The NCRA board voted to put the agreements on hold at its meeting Wednesday and will wait for SMART and Novato to vote their approval. NCRA plans to call a special meeting to finalize its EIR immediately after the agreements are signed.

“NCRA’s unwillingness to acknowledge the harm to communities and the environment that reopening the rail line will cause violates the public’s trust,” said Patty Clary, Director of Californians for Alternatives to Toxics (CATs). “Taxpayers shouldn’t have to shell out more money to support this railroad until they know the facts.”

CATS joined north coast environmental groups Friends of the Eel River (FOER) and Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) to warn in letters to the NCRA that its EIR and the agreements with SMART and Novato have locked the public out of important decisions and are legally indefensible.

NCRA’s refusal to comply with a 1999 court judgment to clean up toxic chemicals saturating the line and impacts rebuilding the rail line would cause to local streams and the Eel and Russian rivers are among the concerns the coalition shares.

“The railroad is trying to have it both ways,” said Scott Greacen, North Coast Director of FOER. “Their business plan says they will develop an open-pit mine at Island Mountain on the Eel River yet their report doesn’t look at the impacts of rebuilding through the most erosive landscape in North America.”

“Trains are part of the solution to efficiently transporting people and goods in California,” said Andrew Orahoske, Conservation Director for EPIC. “But plowing a freight line into the redwoods would cause significant damage and threaten imperiled salmon and other wildlife. That is unacceptable in this day and age.”

For more information and copies of the letters sent to NCRA see CATs at, FOER at and EPIC at


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