By Nancy Lockwood
Channel 2 News
6:57 PM AKST, January 24, 2013
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals published Final Comment, denying the challenge made to the Federal Surface Transportation Board's approval of the Alaska Railroad Port MacKenzie extension.
Three environmental groups, Alaska Survival, The Sierra Club, and Cook Inletkeeper challenged the STB's approval of the extension last January, citing environmental concerns.
The decision handed down Wednesday stated that the Board's procedures were sufficient and the Environmental Impact Study was thorough.Director of Advocacy for Cook Inletkeeper, Bob Shavelson said Thursday, "The Alaska Railroad only survives with a fairly sizable subsidy from congress." He cautioned that, "The Port Mac rail spur does not pay for itself and one of the things that the proponents always push to the side is the operations and maintenance costs."
Patty Sullivan, Public Affairs Director for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough explained the financial benefits to the extension.
"When you connect a deep-water port to a mainline of the railroad," she said, "you're creating a shorter connection to the interior where there are mineral," A rail close to the MacKenzie port, she said, would make mining those minerals an economically feasible possibility.
Shavelson disagreed, describing Sullivan's predictions as "pie in the sky assumptions," supported by "fuzzy math."
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