Submission Number: UBR-DEIS-00291 -- Oral Comment at Public Meeting
Received: 11/18/2020 12:00:00 PM
Commenter: Darrell Fordham
Organization: Argyle Wilderness Preservation Alliance
Initiative: Uinta Basin Railway EIS
Attachments: No Attachments
Okay. Can you hear me?
Good morning, my name is Darrell Fordham.· · · · · · As a landowner in Argyle Canyon area, I'm opposed to the project, as are hundreds of landowners in the area.· We are the ones whose lives and properties and community will be directly and permanently damaged and negatively affected by the construction of the proposed railway.· Much of our frustration, anger and opposition comes from the fact that we have been deliberately excluded from virtually all of the Coalition's planning for the project. · · · · · ·
Despite attending nearly every public Board meeting of the Coalition and every public meeting held specifically for the railway project, the Coalition and other project proponents have willfully and intentionally excluded us property owners from all planning discussions relative to the project. · · · · · ·
Rather than discussing the project in detail in public meetings, the Coalition has instead met behind closed doors in subcommittees, where a quorum was intentionally not present so that they could exclude the public and specifically project opponents like us land owners.· It is my opinion that the Coalition has acted in bad faith through all aspects of this project planning. · · · · · ·
Rather than being open and honest with the public regarding the financial feasibility of the project, route planning, and true purpose for the railway, the Coalition has instead forced us to obtain project information through laborious, time-consuming government record access management requests, which have been answered in nearly every case with redacted documents and missing information, which renders the requested documents useless in the public's desire to form an informed decision regarding the project that is based on facts and supporting documentation.· · · · · ·
Instead, the Coalition has chosen to spew rhetoric and make false claims in order to garner public and Utah governmental support, rather than presenting projects that is transparent and based on verifiable facts and data.· · · · · ·
In Section 4.2.2 of the mitigation section of the Draft EIS, the Board, quote:· Encourages applicants to negotiate mutually acceptable agreements with affected communities to address potential environmental impacts, end quote. · · · · · ·
Despite our repeated requests, the Coalition has refused to do so with the Argyle Canyon community, and instead, uses public moneys to pay their attorney, Eric Johnson, to fight us at every turn. · · · · · ·
We are not wealthy landowners.· Virtually all of us in Argyle Canyon have meager means, especially when it comes to finding tens of thousands of dollars to fund a legal challenge to such a project as this.· · · · · ·
Instead of the Coalition, and specifically Duchesne County commissioners, representing us as the public and us land owners, their constituents, they instead choose to shun anyone who is opposed to the project or who expresses concerns with it.· They use public moneys to deliberately and intentionally suppress the voice of the public. · · · · · ·
This is inherently wrong and sheds significant light on the true viability, purpose and associated negative impacts that this project will irreparably impose on the environment and communities that the proposed railway will bisect.
I will end my comments right there for now, and if there is time, I will continue on.· Thank you.
If this project is going to be so beneficial and if the benefit to the public, not the benefit to the private investment firms and private oil producers, is going to be so great and outweighs the devastation to private landowners, then why the secrecy? Why has the Coalition intentionally and deliberately withheld relevant information from the public?· Why has the Coalition met and deliberated and planned this project in secret in meetings and planning sessions, from which the public and affected stakeholders are intentionally excluded? · · · · · ·
In my opinion, based on my continued witnessing of such actions over the past 19 months, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that the project is not financially viable and truly is not going to function and operate as a common carrier railway.· · · · · ·
There are no provisions in the current planning for this railway for transloading facilities for shipping goods, other than crude oil, frac sand and other products directly related to oil extraction. · · · · · ·
The rest of the public, whom the Coalition deceived with claims the railway will serve, will not have the millions of dollars required to construct transloading facilities required to ship the public goods on this railway. · · · · · ·
The Coalition deceptively claims that the railway will be a common carrier, but in reality, it will function and operate as a private railway, which exclusively serves the private interest of private oil producers.· This demonstrate that the Uinta Basin Railway project does not in actuality fulfill the stated purpose and need of the project. · · · · · ·
The fact that public moneys have been spent to plan such a project without any investment by the private companies who stand to benefit financially from this project is absolutely reprehensible.· This project will inflict serious and irreparable community and environmental impacts which cannot be adequately and equitably mitigated.· · · · · ·
I have reviewed many of the proposed mitigation measures, but what I find lacking is any mechanism for enforcement of compliance with proposed and required mitigation measures.· Based on the Coalition's prior and ongoing mistreatment, disdain and utter lack of respect for the public, particularly landowners, my concern is that these mitigation measures will be disregarded by the Coalition and its project partners and contractors.· · · · · ·
Without a specific -- without a guarantee and a specific plan for enforcement, including provisions for monetary damages and penalties, I feel that the public, and specifically us landowners in the area, will be, once again, left on our own to attempt to enforce these mitigation measures through expensive litigation in the courts, which we cannot afford, or else we will be resigned to just being run over and railroaded by this project and the project proponents as has been our experience to date.· · · · · ·
Mitigation measures are useless without enforcement and penlites for noncompliance.· In my opinion, a substantial and significant financial bond should be required as part of the STB approval, should one of the action alternatives be given approval, and a third party independent compliance and enforcement entity should be required, implemented, established and paid for by the project proponents.
-- to strictly monitor and enforce compliance with each and every mitigation measure.· To do anything less is to fail the public and the affected communities by leaving us with no effective, affordable remedies to assure the Coalition and project contractors' compliance. · · · · · · Thank you.