Mark Taylor

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A federal judge has ruled against an environmental group that filed suit against BNSF last year claiming the intermodal development near Edgerton posed regional environmental hazards.

Skip Kalb, director of strategic development for the railroad, told members of the Gardner Area Chamber of Commerce and the Southwest Johnson County EDC on June 29 the ruling was handed down the previous evening.

Kalb, keynote speaker for the chamber’s and EDC’s annual Business Appreciation Luncheon, said the judge’s 20-page decision disputed complaints in a federal lawsuit filed in 2010 by Hillsdale Environmental Loss Protection, Inc. (HELP).

“We are very pleased (with the ruling),” said, Kalb, who added that BNSF has gone to great lengths to make the project fuel efficient and to minimize environmental impacts.

HELP, along with the Kansas Natural Resource Council (KNRC) and five individuals, sued BNSF and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over what they claimed was an inefficient environmental study for the 1,000-acre development.

The plaintiffs said the development would have a significant environmental impact on local and regional air and water quality.

The lawsuit contended that the Corps of Engineer’s Environmental Assessment – which found no significant environmental impact posed by the development – relied too heavily on data provided by BNSF.

The plaintiffs called for a more intensive Environmental Impact Statement and Health Risk assessment for the development.

When contacted for comment, Mark V. Dugan, attorney representing HELP, said he is reviewing the judge’s ruling.

“We have not determined whether to appeal,” he said. “Other than that, I don’t have any substantive comment, except that obviously we are disappointed by the ruling.”

Kalb told chamber and EDC members that 85 pieces of heavy equipment are currently on the intermodal site and that construction is underway.

He said the intermodal logistics park is expected to open in the last quarter of 2013.

The opening will coincide with the construction of a new interchange at I-35 and Homestead Lane, Kalb added.