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Commissioners cancel BNSF hearing

by Alecia Warren
| November 23, 2010 8:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - Maybe a little more talking will do the trick.

The Kootenai County commissioners have canceled the December public hearing on their proposed permit amendments for Burlington Northern Sante Fe's refueling depot in Hauser.

Instead, the officials will hold a workshop with the railroad where both parties will hopefully come to a new arrangement, said Commissioner Rick Currie.

"I don't want to say compromise," Currie said on Monday. "There are some things that we cannot compromise on, and won't."

After a compliance hearing for the depot last December, the commissioners had agreed permit amendments were necessary to ensure safety.

They proposed those new measures a few weeks ago, including new standards on shutting down the $52 million facility during a leak, as well as new well testing and groundwater monitoring.

The railroad company based in Fort Worth, Texas, objected with a lawsuit, pointing out that it had met all permit conditions and no environmental agencies suggested amendments.

Currie hopes the workshop, which will be held at the Hauser Depot, will put that lawsuit to bed.

"We'll see if we can talk about their wants and our wants and possibly avoid any legal ramifications," he said.

Gus Melonas, spokesperson for BNSF, said he couldn't discuss how the workshop will affect the company's lawsuit.

He didn't reveal what the railroad would bring to the discussion.

"We appreciate that the county has vacated the hearing to allow more time to meet BNSF representatives at the site to get firsthand information about the facility and its operation," Melonas said.

The general public is allowed to attend but not comment at the workshop, which will take place at 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 13 at the depot.

If any new requirements are agreed upon, Currie said, those will be open to public comment later.

"There's things that we might not be aware of they (BNSF) are going to bring to our attention, and probably vice versa," he said.

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