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Oregon's longest-running lawsuit finally settled by UP, ENA, and SMILE

A lawsuit dating back to the 1950’s, which led to an injunction against the Southern Pacific Railroad prohibiting the parking of trains in the “Brooklyn Yard” south of Reedway Street, modified in the past decade, and then recently reoriented toward minimizing diesel pollution emanating from the railroad facility, has now been settled by a Final Judgment involving the four parties involved in the lawsuit.

Those parties are Union Pacific (UP), successor to Southern Pacific; the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association (ENA); the Sellwood-Moreland Improvement League neighborhood association (SMILE); and the City of Portland.

In announcing the settlement, the parties involved have issued the following joint press release:

Union Pacific has entered into a joint settlement agreement with the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association, the Sellwood-Moreland Improvement League, and the City of Portland regarding the removal of a 55-year-old federal injunction on Union Pacific’s Brooklyn Intermodal Yard in Portland. As part of the agreement, Union Pacific agrees to further implementation of emissions-reducing technologies in its freight rail operations in Portland. Union Pacific has worked closely with the communities surrounding Brooklyn Yard for more than fifty years and with this settlement is now poised to undertake a modernization project at Brooklyn Yard that will further improve operating efficiency at the yard, while expanding emissions reduction efforts and minimizing operational noise.

“We are pleased that we have reached a resolution with the communities surrounding Brooklyn Yard that will permit us to operate more efficiently in the years to come,” said Scott Moore, Union Pacific vice president – Public Affairs West. “Union Pacific has been part of the Oregon economy for over a century and we believe the modernization of Brooklyn Yard will improve our ability to offer our Oregon customers excellent service.”

The settlement immediately vacates the federal injunction on Union Pacific’s Brooklyn Yard and includes provisions for acquisition and use of new equipment that will decrease operational emissions in Portland. By April 1, 2013, two Tier 2 locomotives will be assigned to replace older Tier 0 locomotives that transfer rail cars between Union Pacific’s Brooklyn and Albina yards in Portland, a Tier 2 diesel electric locomotive will be acquired to switch rail cars in the Brooklyn Yard, and diesel particulate filters will be installed on yard equipment such as gantry cranes and a packer at Brooklyn Yard.

“We recognize the important role that freight trains play in the economy. We are pleased that Union Pacific has agreed to bring some of its leading edge emission control technology to the Brooklyn Yard,” said Robert McCullough, Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association President. He went on to say, “We believe that the agreed-upon measures will provide significant reductions in diesel emissions from the Brooklyn Yard. We believe this results in a corresponding benefit for the health of the adjacent neighbors.”

SMILE representative Kevin Downing calculated the impact of diesel engine exhaust associated with the Brooklyn Yard costing up to $10 million annually. He said, “The actions we have agreed to today are excellent cost-effective steps to begin to lessen the impact of diesel emissions from the Brooklyn Yard.”