UPHE and Residents of Tooele County Appeal the Approval of a New Rail Line in Tooele

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE), the Erda Community Association, and individual residents of Tooele County, with the support of the Stop the Polluting Port Coalition, filed a “petition for reconsideration” yesterday with the Surface Transportation Board (STB) in Washington, DC, regarding their approval of a new rail line in Tooele County for Savage Rail. The rail line is intended to service two proposed industrial parks in Tooele, the Romney Group’s Lakeview Business Park, and the Utah Inland Port Authority’s (UIPA) “project area” near the Great Salt Lake.

The groups’ opposition to the rail line is based on the pivotal role the rail line would play in accelerating the development of these industrial parks, which, according to the developers’ own projections, would attract tens of thousands of diesel trucks and other vehicles per day.  The traffic and pollution from all these trucks and vehicles would completely transform the bucolic environment of Tooele’s newest city, Erda, into a heavy industrial zone, ruining their quality of life.  And much of that traffic would spill into the Salt Lake Valley and the rest of the Wasatch Front, adding pollution, traffic congestion, and more pressure and maintenance costs on Wasatch Front freeways.  

“This kind of massive warehouse and industrial development has overwhelmed communities in other states, and the residents have nicknamed these developments ‘diesel death zones,’ because of all the pollution that comes with them,” said Dr. Brian Moench, UPHE President. “You can ask residents of Southern California what turning our future over to corporate developers will look like if we allow this to happen in Utah. UIPA’s plans to turn the Wasatch Front into a gigantic ‘big box warehouse farm’ is the exact opposite of what most Utahn’s want for our future.”

“Tooele’s water resources are already under tremendous stress because all the county’s water supply comes from wells, and the entire county is in the grip of an ongoing extreme drought,” said Kyle Matthews a member of the Erda Community Association.  “This rail line will greatly add to that stress.  There’s even a risk it could render our homes without water. An average of 1,300 train derailments a year occur in the US. A spill of hazardous material from a train accident or even long-term contamination from the rail line could destroy the wells of homes that are directly adjacent to the rail line.”

Clyde Christensen, Erda City Councilman said, “A few people will make a lot of money completely undermining the quality of life that we enjoy in Erda. But ‘growth for growth’s sake’ is what they’re trying to force upon us for their own benefit. This is not what this community wants.”

“I don’t understand why the Surface Transportation Board would trust the word of the only people who will benefit instead of speaking to the community and opening their eyes to see the very clear harms reactivating this rail line will cause,” said Teri Durfee, a resident of Tooele County.

UIPA’s project area will also encroach upon critical Great Salt Lake wetlands, undermining efforts to save the Great Salt Lake ecosystem.  UPHE contends the federal STB acted illegally in refusing to account for the downstream negative environmental and public health consequences of approving Savage’s rail line.  In other cases, like the Uinta Basin Railway, the courts have ruled it is illegal for the STB to not take those issues into consideration. UPHE intends to pursue all options in opposing the rail line if the STB does not reverse their approval.