By Derrick Perkins
City officials learned Friday that Norfolk Southern is seeking state approval to more than double the scope of the company’s operation at its West End ethanol facility.
The transportation giant offloads 14 railcars full of the highly flammable material each day at its South Van Dorn Street location. The proposed expansion would see that number rise to 30 railcars, according to a memo written by City Manager Rashad Young.
While previously exempt from needing a state permit, the expected rise in emissions with the expansion in service automatically triggered the need for Richmond’s stamp of approval. Young is asking state officials to hold public hearings on the proposal before giving Norfolk Southern the green light.
“The City of Alexandria has longstanding serious concerns about the operations at this facility,” Young wrote. “This proposed expansion would undoubtably increase the risks from the facility and raise concerns from the community.”
Young petitioned Richmond for at least a 60 day grace period before approving the increase as well as two public meetings with residents in the interim.
Norfolk Southern’s relationship with City Hall has been rocky since it opened the facility in 2008, against the wishes of neighbors and Alexandra’s leading elected officials. Several ethanol spills in the intervening years have kept residents on edge – the facility is a short distance from a public school and residential developments.