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Village of Barrington, Illinois v. Surface Transportation Board

Citation: 41 ELR 20113
No. No. 09-1002, (D.C. Cir., 03/15/2011)

The D.C. Circuit upheld the Surface Transportation Board's imposition of environmental mitigation conditions in its approval of a "minor" railroad merger. The case involved the acquisition of a small "non-Class I" railroad by a larger "Class I" railroad company. Because the acquisition involved only one Class I railroad, the Board classified the transaction as a “minor” merger, meaning that it needed to approve the transaction within 180 days unless it found that the merger was likely to cause substantial anticompetitive effects. Finding that the substantial increase in freight traffic resulting from this transaction would significantly affect the quality of the human environment, the Board decided to prepare an EIS. Based on its review, the Board decided to impose environmental mitigation conditions in approving the transaction. The railroad company argued that the Staggers Rail Act of 1980 prohibits the Board from imposing any conditions on minor mergers, including environmental conditions, unrelated to anticompetitive concerns. But nothing in §11324(d) of the Act unambiguously forecloses the Board from imposing environmental conditions on minor mergers. The Board, therefore, retained its environmental conditioning authority. In addition, in approving the merger at issue in this case, the Board complied with NEPA and the environmental conditions it imposed are neither arbitrary nor capricious.