The Tongue River Railroad is officially dead
It's official. The proposed Tongue River Railroad is done. Today the Surface Transportation Board issued a decision officially ending the Tongue River Railroad. On November 25, 2015, the Tongue River Railroad Company had asked the STB to hold the application in abeyance, which means they wanted the STB to suspend work on the permit application but keep the docket open until the proposed Otter Creek mine received a permit from the state of Montana. On Earth Day, April 22, 2016, the Surface Transportation Board met and decided to deny the Tongue River Railroad Company's (TRRC) request to keep the docket open, officially ending the entire proceeding at the STB. Today, on April 26, 2016, it was officially announced. If you want to get into some details, here is a brief timeline of what happened with the legal proceedings leading up to this decision. On December 11, 2015, shortly after the TRRC asked for their application to be suspended yet remain open, Northern Plains Resource Council and Rocker Six Cattle Co., who have legal standing in the proceeding, filed a motion to deny and dismiss with prejudice the TRRC's application. Dismissing with prejudice means that the TRRC could never come back to the STB with another permit application for the project. Then, on January 15, 2016, TRRC filed a notice stating that Arch and Otter Creek Coal filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. They argued that the bankruptcy didn't affect the status of the mine permit or the rail construction application. On March 10, 2016, TRRC filed a supplement to its petition stating that Arch Coal was suspending their efforts to secure a mine permit from the state of Montana. The company continued to maintain that the permit application in front of the STB should remain open. Northern Plains and Rocker Six responded on March 15, 2016 arguing that Arch Coal's decision to suspend work on the mine permit application was even more evidence that the STB should dismiss the Tongue River Railroad permit application. On April 5, 2016, TRRC responded stating that Arch Coal still possessed a lease from the State of Montana for the coal tracts and that energy markets can change quickly. On April 15, 2016, NPRC and Rocker 6 responded stating that over half the coal tracts are leased from Great Northern Properties Limited Partnership, and that that entity terminated the lease months ago.' On April 22, 2016, the STB met and decided to dismiss TRRC's application without prejudice. "We will deny TRRC’s request to hold this proceeding in abeyance and instead dismiss the proceeding without prejudice. At this time, there appears to be little prospect that Otter Creek Coal’s mine permit will be secured in the foreseeable future. Otter Creek Coal and its parent, Arch, have both filed for bankruptcy, and Otter Creek Coal has suspended its application for an MDEQ mining permit indefinitely. While it is possible that Otter Creek Coal or another party could restart the mining permit application process in the future, it is unclear whether and when this might occur. Therefore, to keep this docket open would serve no purpose."