THE ENVIRONMENT

environmentXpressWest is designed to minimize impacts to both the natural and built environment. This goal is achieved by maximizing the use of the existing I-15 freeway right-of-way. Additionally, the system will use highly reliable, self-propelled, electric, multiple-unit high speed trains, reducing peak traffic on I-15 by an estimated 25 percent, shifting millions of annual trips to energy efficient electric trains, and reducing emissions from cars and buses. XpressWest will provide an energy-efficient, environmentally sound transportation alternative.

In February 2006, the federal government initiated the NEPA process to study potential impacts of XpressWest construction on the natural and built environment by executing a Memorandum of Understanding between DXE, FRA, STB, and a third-party environmental consultant, CirclePoint. The FRA is the Lead federal agency for the XpressWest EIS in the Memorandum of Understanding, and DXE committed to funding all work necessary to complete the EIS and supporting materials. The Cooperating Agencies are the STB, BLM, FHWA, and National Park Service. Caltrans and NDOT are participating state agencies.

 

The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations implementing NEPA require that a Record of Decision (ROD) specify the alternative or alternatives considered to be environmentally preferable.9 “Environmentally preferable” is defined as “the alternative that will promote the national environmental policy as expressed in the NEPA, Section 101”.10 Ordinarily this means the alternative that causes the least damage to the biological and physical environment; it also means the alternative that best protects, preserves, and enhances historic, cultural, and natural resources.

In determining an environmentally preferable alternative, FRA and the Cooperating Agencies considered all action alternatives as well as the No Action Alternative. FRA and the Cooperating Agencies weighed and balanced the physical environmental effects associated with the action alternatives as well as those associated with the No Action Alternative.11

The lead and cooperating agencies concluded that implementation of the Project would lower operation energy consumption relative to projected future conditions under the No Action Alternative without the addition of rail service.12 This change is associated with an expected shift from automobile usage to train usage. By reducing automobile traffic on the I-15 Corridor and allowing for inter-regional mobility via electric-powered trains, the Project would result in a net decrease in energy consumption equivalent to about 440,000 barrels of oil each year.13

This is also a beneficial effect. Overall, implementation of the Project would result in a beneficial reduction in total energy consumption (electric power demand and petroleum-based consumption). The Project would continue to result in a reduction in automobile energy use that would be greater than the new energy required by the railway.14

As of November, 2011 all NEPA environmental approvals have been issued:


9 40 CFR 1505.2.

10 Forty Most Asked Questions Concerning CEQ’s National Environmental Policy Act Regulations, 46 FR 18026 (March 23, 1981).

11 Record of Decision, XpressWest High Speed Passenger Train, pg. 15-33.

12 Ibid.

13 Ibid., pg. 55.

14 Ibid.



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