August 20, 2013 Meeting with Norfolk Southern Representatives and Tour of Ethanol Transloading Facility

Page updated on Aug 23, 2013 at 5:29 PM

August 20, 2013 Meeting with Norfolk Southern Representatives and Tour of Ethanol Transloading Facility

On August 20, 2013, City senior management, including City Manager Rashad M. Young, Transportation & Environmental Services Director Richard Baier, and the City’s Office of Environmental Quality staff, toured the Norfolk Southern ethanol transloading facility.  They met with the company’s representatives to discuss ways to:

  • minimize the transloading facility’s impact on the quality of life in nearby communities, and
  • better inform the public about progress toward achieving this goal.

Overall, the discussions and information exchange were positive and constructive. The following information summarizes the meeting discussions.

  • Norfolk Southern (NS) representatives indicated that a workable solution to allow shifting rail operations to daytime was not practically feasible, due to NS system wide operational and logistical issues based upon their internal meetings since the City’s June 28 meeting with NS senior officials.  Staff inquired about the feasibility of streamlining the operation and reducing the amount of activities during late night hours. NS indicated that they would go back and investigate if there were some efficiency improvements that could be made to reduce the number of couplings and transfer of cars undertaken late at night. 
  • Norfolk Southern personnel felt enhanced screening using trees along the north side of the NS main railroad tracks seems very viable, and discussion centered on planting trees along the Backlick Run facing Cameron Station. There was some discussion on funding and maintenance. While the City would prefer NS to pay 100% of any screening cost, NS appeared to be leaning towards cost sharing.  NS will further study this tree screening idea.  
  • With respect to community meetings in the future: 1) NS did not want to have any additional community meetings related to the air permit under consideration, other than the formal public meeting to be held by Virginia Department Environmental Quality (VDEQ); and 2) NS did agree to participate in a future to-be-determined community meeting hosted by either the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) or Environmental Policy Commission (EPC).  The intent for such a meeting would be for NS to explain their ethanol transloading operations and hear community concerns.  City staff will work on setting up this meeting.
  • NS indicated that at this time (but subject to change) there were no immediate NS plans to expand the ethanol transloading facility, rather the VDEQ permit was aimed at having regulatory approval in hand if market conditions warranted an expansion. It should be noted that federal regulations require ethanol usage in the U.S. to increase in 2014; however, due to a number of logistical, market, and consumption factors, there is a serious debate at the federal level about rolling back this mandated usage increase. 
  • City staff also asked NS to think about a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for taking complaints from the community. 

 For more information, contact Bill Skrabak at