Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Central Utah rail line project faces controversy, opposition

Political pressure and scrutiny from the public and press may be poised to create problems for a 43-mile Central Utah rail line project and an associated export terminal in Oakland, Calif., facilities designed to give a shot in the arm to the area economy.

Sanpete County, in conjunction with Sevier, Carbon and Emery counties, and with the help of a $53 million loan from the Utah Community Impact Board (CIB), is an investor in the two-pronged project. The goal is to bring rail service to the four counties. That could permit coal mined in Sevier and Emery counties, and other local cargo such as hay and farm products, to be shipped to Oakland by rail, loaded on ships and sold overseas, mainly in Asia. The entire rail/terminal project will cost over $250 million to make a reality, most of it to come from private investment. But the $53 million state loan could be important seed money to get project going.

But since an article in the Richfield Reaper reported that most of what would be shipped over the rail line and through the port would be coal, opponents have been coming out of the woodwork in California. Even Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has spoken out against coal being shipped through her city. Some of the outcry has arisen out of a series of articles in the East Bay Express, an alternative newspaper.

Now, the $53-million CIB loan is in limbo. CIB staff said it was on hold while the board assessed its legality. The loan would be the first time CIB funds have been approved for an out-of-state project. Sanpete Messenger