State Sen. Mike McGuire introduced new legislation to block a proposal to restore the defunct North Coast railroad in an attempt to export coal overseas from Montana, Utah and Wyoming through the Port of Humboldt Bay.
McGuire called the proposal “one of the largest environmental threats the North Coast has seen in decades.”

McGuire said, "This critical bill will ban any state funding from being invested to improve the rail line for coal shipments north of Willits and it bans any state funding to build out a potential coal storage terminal at the Port of Humboldt. No way, no how are we going to let this happen.”

SB 307 would “prohibit spending state monies for any new bulk coal terminal project, as defined, within the County of Humboldt,” according to the text of the bill. “California should do everything it can to put a stop to anything that supports the use of coal, and tampering with the plans for this trail, which will go through some beautiful North Coast country, is not welcomed,” said Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa).“California should do everything it can to put a stop to anything that supports the use of coal, and tampering with the plans for this trail, which will go through some beautiful North Coast country, is not welcomed,” said Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa).
 
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After discussing a plan by a newly formed Wyoming corporation to transport coal through the Eel River Canyon on long-abandoned and crumbling railroad infrastructure, the Ukiah City Council Wednesday approved moving forward with the last phase of a public trail still being built on the short section of tracks inside the city limits.

“We’re the first official segment of the Great Redwood Trail, which we’re kind of proud of,” Deputy City Manager Shannon Riley told the City Council during its Sept. 15 meeting, referring to State Sen. Mike McGuire’s plan to turn the railroad tracks into a multi-use trail that stretches from the San Francisco Bay to Humboldt Bay.

However, Riley said, “suddenly a corporation was formed in Wyoming under the name ‘the North Coast Railroad Company’ with an application that says they have over a billion dollars in funding and they’re going to revitalize the tracks and use them (likely) to transport coal that is mined in the Midwest and shipped somehow to the Bay Area, then put on trains and transported to Humboldt Bay, where it would be put on large barges and shipped to Asia. This was a surprise to many people, and there are so many unanswered questions. There is no public information about who the principals of this LLC are, and there is no proof of their financial backing.”

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Guest Editorial to the Eureka Times Standard
by Donna Roper, Cindy Plank and Sharolyn Hutton, representing LWV of Sonoma, Mendocino, and Humboldt Counties
Dear Surface Transportation Board Members:

This is a joint letter from the League of Women Voters of Humboldt County, League of Women Voters of Mendocino County, and the League of Women Voters of Sonoma County in opposition to the transportation of coal through northern California and the bay area by train.

It has been widely reported and corroborated that the North Coast Rail Company LLC is intending to use the northern California railroad to transport coal mined in the Rocky Mountains and intends to transport this coal across the state of California to Marin County, and then haul it north through Sonoma, Mendocino, Trinity, and Humboldt counties to the port of Humboldt.

The League of Women Voters wishes to express our strong opposition to the request of North Coast Railroad Co., LLC (NCRCo) to oppose the North Coast Railroad Authority’s (NCRA) request for abandonment of certain sections of the long unused portions of the rail line from Willits to Humboldt County. Sections of the rail line have been rendered inoperable for safety reasons.

Given that the primary reason that the North Coast Railroad Co., LLC opposes this abandonment exemption is to allow the transport of coal to the Port of Humboldt Bay for transport to Asian markets, and that the burning of coal is a major contributor to global warming, it is unconscionable that we ship our coal to other countries to contribute to global warming.

Further, the railroad crosses environmentally sensitive areas, specifically two rivers that supply drinking water to thousands. The land along parts of the area is unstable and subject to landslides. A far better use of this abandoned rail bed is the further development of the Great Redwood Trail.

We urgently request that the STB deny the North Coast Railroad Co., LLC request to oppose North Coast Railroad Authority’s abandonment exemption.


An out-of-nowhere proposal from a shadowy company to take over a defunct railway through Northern California’s coastal mountains has raised suspicions that Western coal companies are engineering a backdoor pathway for exporting coal to Asia.
California has been seeking permission from federal rail regulators to decommission much of the 320-mile rail network, connecting the San Francisco Bay with the port at Humboldt Bay, and repurpose it as the Great Redwood Trail.

That plan is now in jeopardy after lawyers for the mystery company filed papers on Aug. 16 with the federal Surface Transportation Board, objecting to California’s plans to transform the North Coast Railroad to a trail. State Sen. Mike McGuire, a champion for the trail project, now alleges Western coal operators, including Utah producers, are behind the move.

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North Coast lawmakers have vowed to block a secretive plan to restore an abandoned stretch of defunct North Coast railroad to export coal overseas from Montana, Utah and Wyoming through the Port of Humboldt Bay.

State Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) called the proposed plan “one of the largest environmental threats” the North Coast has seen in decades.

North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) said there are several ways to halt the proposed project. “One of them is NCRA itself because the NCRA is faced with losing its right of way to a coal train,” he said. “I believe it would have the option of withdrawing the abandonment request and keeping (the rail line) in public ownership to at least have more time to work on a strategy.”

Huffman also urged community members to express opposition to the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District. Reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, district executive director Larry Oetker said the possibility of a coal train is “not something that we are interested in.”

“We are focused on developing Humboldt Bay for an offshore wind terminal and that’s really all we’re working on,” he said. “… The port is not looking to bring coal into the harbor. 

We have been exclusively focused on are finding things to ship out of the bay that the community thinks is a good fit for our region. We are looking to be a clean, green port.”

When asked if the harbor district has participated in conversations with NCRCo. Oetker said, “No, I have not met with anybody looking to bring coal to the port.”

McGuire vowed to bring new legislation forward “to stop Big Coal in its tracks.”

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