View this email in your browser
On March 7, 2022, the Post-Gazette published an article by Ed Blazina entitled “Norfolk Southern Rail ready for key city fixes- Bridge work would permit double-stacked cars”. Read it here 

The article correctly states that the neighborhood groups involved in the mediation could not be reached. The reason for that stems from a concern that those neighborhood groups will be sued for Norfolk Southern’s legal fees if it decides that their Confidentiality Agreement is breached. Norfolk Southern is bound by the same agreement.  While neither side can tell you what was decided by the parties during the mediation, we can comment on the process, what was not encompassed in the mediation, and anything that occurred prior to and outside the mediation. That said, the article includes a number of misleading statements that warrant correction.

First, the article completely confuses mediation with arbitration. Thus, the mediator in our case did not decide, determine, make findings on, or order anything. That is what an arbitrator would have done in a completely different type of proceeding which did not occur here. 

While Norfolk Southern knows the difference, the article states that Norfolk Southern Regional Vice President Rudy Husband “said that the railroad was able to convince the mediator, attorney David Wolf, that running double stack cars through the Northside wouldn’t cause undue safety, air pollution or noise pollution problems… There were no red flags raised environmentally…” 

As a point of fact, David Wolf was not the mediator, and no such determination was ever made by the real mediator. Those issues were outside the scope of this mediation and will be part of Pennsylvania's required Act 120 public meetings still to be held by PennDOT and Norfolk Southern with neighborhood residents impacted by the 20-mile PVCP Project. 

What is apparent is that Norfolk Southern was attempting to use the Post-Gazette article to lay a foundation for how it will address these environmental issues in those Act 120 public meetings. 

On those environmental issues, it is important to understand that PennDOT hired JMT — an independent consultant, to assess the impact of environmental issues created by the PVCP. We obtained a copy of JMT’s Report as part of a Right to Know Request prior to the mediation, and here is a summary of their color-coded Environmental Impact findings:

Contrary to Norfolk Southern's assertions, none of these environmental criteria were greenlighted by JMT.

Norfolk Southern stated in its February 11, 2019 comments to the JMT Report that, “If PennDOT adopts the JMT Report with the rankings as existing in the draft [it will] likely lead to an EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] versus an EA [Environmental Assessment]. …The report is supposed to be taken to the public officials to rebut the public’s request to lower the track through Allegheny Commons.  When looking at the matrix, the items in red show high impact which generally move in the direction of an EIS…”

It's important for you to understand the difference between an EIS and an EA, since an EIS would require a much-expanded analysis into these environmental issues.  In connection with the PVCP, an EIS would need to contain a detailed discussion of the environmental impact, any adverse environmental effects that cannot be avoided, alternatives to the proposed action and other information.  An impact may exceed the significance threshold depending on the degree to which it affects the “unique characteristics of the geographic area such as proximity to historic or cultural resources” or “sites, structures or objects listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.” 

Norfolk Southern’s comments to JMT’s Report also pressured PennDOT and JMT to lower the scores for air, noise, and socioeconomic impacts down from an Importance Weight of Very and Extremely.
Norfolk Southern’s comments also indicate that its own report will differ substantially from the JMT report, and that the JMT report should be marked as a DRAFT because:  “Having two reports that disagree will have negative ramifications on the Act 120 process – and a resulting PennDOT ruling could be deemed arbitrary and capricious.”

While Norfolk Southern has performed its own Environmental Analysis - released in connection with State Historic oversight connected to the Merchant St Bridge, its methodology is open to question. For example, their environmental monitor was placed on the 8th floor balcony of a high-rise apartment 230 feet away instead of the children’s playground 10 feet from the tracks. 
In a February 11, 2019 email, JMT Vice President Lisa Cooper stated in response to Norfolk Southern’s comments that:
“We are completely uncomfortable with the direction this is going…Norfolk Southern is now suggesting that this study is going to contradict the Act 120 process…who’s [sic] preferred alternative is it to build a new bridge [Merchant Street] with substandard vertical [road] clearance?”  She continues, “NS States: ‘The report is supposed to be taken to the public officials to rebut the public’s request to lower the track through Allegheny Commons’…since when???”  Finally, Ms. Cooper states, “NS states national facts with regard to doublestack trains; however, locally their [sic] have been incidents that we can’t ignore.  The Pittsburgh community has their vision and how they perceive to be impacted locally…increasing intermodal to remove trucks from roads on a national level means nothing to these folks if they have increased trains in their backyard.  Our understanding was that we were supposed to develop an unbiased review based on cursory observations.  We have not started an evaluation of the southside feasibility and based on the direction/expectations for the northside study by NS, I REALLY am uncomfortable with developing anything.”
It is fair to say that JMT found that the PVCP project has a substantial adverse impact along with indirect, secondary, and cumulative visual, audible, and atmospheric effects. Nevertheless, the JMT Report was marked as a DRAFT and buried. 
What is clear is that the adverse health effects of the PVCP were formally recognized by 95 prestigious Pittsburgh-area doctors and other medical professionals who signed onto a request for a Health Impact Assessment:  Details can be found here

In Deputy Secretary Jenny Granger’s September 6, 2018 correspondence to State Senator Wayne Fontana, she stated that, “Resources within the [20-mile] corridor …will be given full consideration in the avoidance, minimization and mitigation of any potential impacts.”  RP3 submits that the 27 communities, and their Environmental Justice Area residents affected by the PVCP deserve no less.
Rail Pollution Protection Pittsburgh
Copyright © 2022 Rail Pollution Protection Pittsburgh (RP3), All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp