The Southern Environmental Law Center is taking the N.C. Railroad to court because it believes the track company needs to be treated like everybody else.
The N.C. Railroad calls a 317-line its own, a line from Morehead City, N.C., through the Triangle and Piedmont to Charlotte, N.C. The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) wants the state’s Records Act to apply to N.C. Railroad. The law states, “public records and public information compiled by the agencies of North Carolina government or its subdivisions are the property of the people.”
The SELC wants records from the railroad dealing with a $2.7 billion transit line, called the Durham-Orange Light Rail. The project came to an abrupt end this past spring due to a number of challenges, one coming from N.C. Railroad. The transit line would have used part of the railroad’s corridor.
The SELC wants to know why the Durham-Orange Light Rail line fell victim to the chopping block, and it believes N.C. Railroad played a primary role.
An attorney representing the N.C. Railroad, Jim Cooney III denied SELC’s request for documents in late May. The SELC says the company is owned by the state of North Carolina, and thus should be subject to public disclosure of records.
Attorney Kym Hunter, representing SELC, claims the N.C. Railroad “is built on state taxpayers funds.”
“It spends and invests the people’s funds, it receives debt relief from the state, and pays no income taxes,” Hunter says. “It is only right then that the people of North Carolina get some oversight over its actions.”
In a letter to SELC, Cooney claimed the railroad does not receive operating money from the state, and noted the State Auditor and State Ethics Commission do not consider the railroad a state agency.