Mayor ‘Pissed Off’ With Norfolk Southern Over Lack of Communication
Norfolk Southern is seeking a state permit to increase offloading from 14 to 30 rail cars per day at its Alexandria facility.
Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille said Tuesday he plans to do everything within his power to oppose Norfolk Southern's request to double the number of rail cars offloaded per day at its ethanol transfer facility near the Van Dorn Street Metro station.
Norfolk Southern filed for a permit with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to increase offloading from the current 14 rail cars to 30 cars per day. Increased emissions under the plan mean Norfolk Southern will need an air quality permit to expand the scale of operations at the facility at 1000 S. Van Dorn St.
Euille said he plans to bring a resolution before City Council next month opposing any expansion, then meet with Norfolk Southern and Virginia environmental officials to make a case against the proposal.
“This is doubling the cars from the current level of 14 to 30, and that is certainly something we feel is an environmental and safety issue, particularly considering that that facility is near a residential neighborhood, and we have an elementary school nearby,” Euille said.
He added: “This is too much of an increase for that part of the neighborhood, and at this juncture, with my role as mayor and with City Council and with the community, we will do everything within our power to oppose this expansion.”
Euille also took issue with the fact that Norfolk Southern failed to notify city officials of its plans after filing for the state permit, even though the city has no real official role in the matter. Euille told Patch he was “pissed off” about the lack of communication.
The transfer facility has been the site of past spills, including a 100-gallon ethanol spill in February. City leaders have requested that the state Department of Environmental Quality hold an informational meeting and a public hearing on Norfolk Southern’s proposal and a public comment period of at least 60 days.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Norfolk Southern spokesman Robin Chapman said the company has “considered the possibility” of expanding the Alexandria facility, depending on market conditions, but has not yet decided to implement the plan.
“Recognizing that a state air quality permit would be required to proceed with an expansion, the company wants to be able to act quickly to future market conditions and chose to apply to the DEQ for a permit ahead of the need,” he stated. “Appropriate safety measures would be designed into such a facility, but a design does not now exist.”
Chapman said Norfolk Southern didn’t tell Alexandria officials about its plans because the company knew the state would notify the city as part of the permitting process.
Bill Hayden, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Quality, said it usually takes 90 days to issue a permit after all materials have been submitted. He did not know when Norfolk Southern filed its application.
“We're waiting for all the materials to make sure the application is complete,” Hayden said. “We have not made that determination yet, that the application is complete.”
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