BOLD PLANS by the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad to upgrade 965 km of its existing route and build 450 km of new line into the Powder River coalfields of Wyoming (RG 3.02 p113) have been dealt a further setback by a federal court.

In a ruling released on October 2, a three-judge panel from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the proposal to be returned to the Surface Transportation Board for further consideration, although it noted that the agency ’did a highly commendable and professional job in evaluating an enormously complex proposal’.

The STB had approved the $2bn project on January 30 2002, but the City of Rochester, Minnesota, went to court, claiming that houses near the tracks would be subjected to excessive noise and vibration, among other adverse effects. The court found that these problems were relatively minor and could be remedied by the STB.

Now STB Chairman Roger Nober has issued a statement saying he was ’concerned about the ramifications of certain aspects of this decision, and our agency is evaluating how it should proceed’.