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On February 12, 2021, Atlanta radio station WABE reported that:

Norfolk Southern [which is building its new $575M corporate headquarters in Atlanta] is stopping work on an ethanol unloading rail facility [adjacent to its tracks] in northwest Atlanta that had drawn opposition from local community and environmental groups, as well as from city officials. Norfolk Southern indicated that it wanted more discussions with the Mayor because the City had just filed for a preliminary injunction with the Surface Transportation Board (STB.)
Norfolk Southern acknowledged that it had “a special responsibility to [act] in a socially and environmentally responsible way,” Norfolk Southern spokesman Jeff DeGraff said in an email.
Earlier that week, activists were joined by pastors and former Atlanta politicians for a press conference at the site, where they called on the city to step in and stop Norfolk Southern’s work.
“We’re asking Mayor Bottoms, fight against this deal,” former state Sen. Vincent Fort said at the event. “Use the power of the office to stop this moral, economic and environmental injustice. Senator Ford called on Bottoms to use her contacts at the White House to intervene at the Federal level as well.” …City Councilman Dustin Hillis, whose district includes the property, said, “I stand with our nearby neighborhoods, historic preservationists and environmental advocates [based on the proximity of the project to drinking water sources] who have been tireless in their efforts fighting this development.”

Just one week later, on February 18, 2021, Norfolk Southern announced in its own press release that:

“Norfolk Southern has terminated plans to build a rail transfer facility on the site of the former Chattahoochee Brick Company in Atlanta according to James A. Squires, chairman, president and CEO.” …“Although the company believes the City’s action lacks legal merit, Norfolk Southern listened to the community and has no interest in protracted litigation if the City opposes the project.”…“We pride ourselves on being a good corporate citizen in the communities where we operate” said Squires. “In this case, that means walking away from the project despite our very best efforts to work with the community on the responsible development of the site.”…Throughout 2020, Norfolk Southern worked closely with local elected officials, held multiple meetings to listen to the concerns of community stakeholders, and incorporated that feedback into plans for the site.”

The contrast between Norfolk Southern’s actions in Atlanta, compared to Pittsburgh, is stunning.  They treat us much differently here in Pittsburgh.
Looking back to the February 19, 2019, WTAE News broadcast, Mayor Peduto stated that:

"For the North Side, I don't think it's appropriate. It's the wrong area to double-stack." Peduto said. "I think we put people first and say their safety comes before the ability for Norfolk Southern to run two double stacks through the city."…"We will look at the possibility of challenging it for the purpose of public safety," Peduto said….The City of Pittsburgh Department of Mobility and Infrastructure intervened in the Norfolk Southern plans in a letter to the PA Public Utility Commission. DOMI is asking that the railroad provide alternative plans "to protect North Side neighborhoods and residents." In a news release, the city also cited its interest in protecting "the historic nature of that area, pedestrian safety, air quality, and other factors" and "for the railroad to be more responsive to city requests on the matter."…Norfolk Southern "has no comment at this time on the city's protest to the Public Utility Commission.” However, railroad spokesman Jonathan Glass states that: "Norfolk Southern is committed to an open and transparent process as we progress with the railroad's proposal to increase rail clearance heights to enable double-stack intermodal trains to operate through Pittsburgh's North Side."

Unlike in Atlanta, because Norfolk Southern has also opposed the participation of all three community groups in the public safety PUC proceedings, those proceedings were enjoined and Norfolk Southern has been running up our bill in very expensive mediation process which began a full fourteen months ago.

Given locomotive diesel pollution’s impact on cancer, asthma, and COVID death rates in black and brown communities, increasing train volume through the most densely-populated Environmental Justice Areas in the city constitutes environmental racism, according to a recent study in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities.
Last fall, Pennsylvania State Senator Wayne Fontana told me personally that “the moment he gets official word that the City does not want the Pittsburgh Vertical Clearance Project, he and the other legislators will go directly to the Governor and stop it.”
Rail Pollution Protection Pittsburgh (RP3) submits that we have been more than patient. We have all waited long enough. It is time for the City to back all of its community organizations and the people they represent and make something happen. Otherwise, it is time for the Mayor to take a page out of Atlanta Mayor Bottom’s playbook and put his words into action. The voters deserve no less.  Please tell him so.

Rail Pollution Protection Pittsburgh
Rail Pollution Protection Pittsburgh
Copyright © 2021 Rail Pollution Protection Pittsburgh (RP3), All rights reserved.

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