CSXT files federal suit on DC Hazmat ordinance, urges Federal solutions

CSX Transportation, Inc. said that it filed a complaint in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, asking the Court to declare invalid the District of Columbia’s ban on the transportation of hazardous materials, DC Bill 16- 77, and to block its implementation. CSXT also expects to seek a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against the measure shortly.

The complaint asserts that the DC measure violates the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution, as well as express preemptive provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act, the federal Hazardous Materials Transportation Act and the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act.

CSXT said in the filing that as a “common carrier” it is required by federal law to transport the banned materials. To comply with the common carrier law and to attempt to comply with the Washington, DC ordinance would not only impose an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce, it would increase risk to other communities by dramatically adding to the miles and the hours these materials spend in other communities.

“Common carrier” laws are federal laws that require railroads to move shipments when they get a reasonable request from a customer. They have been a part of railroad legal obligations for more than a century.

DC Bill 16-77 was passed by the DC City Council on February 1, and signed into law on February 15, 2005 by Washington, DC Mayor Anthony Williams. It would prevent rail and truck transportation companies from transporting certain hazardous materials through the District of Columbia. Other communities are also discussing similar legislation.

“Federal laws require railroads to carry hazardous materials. As long as that legal duty exists, this company has a responsibility to move the materials as safely as possible for all communities. Doubling the shipment times, the miles traveled and the handling requirements of dangerous materials, as the DC ordinance would require in many cases, just increases risk to everyone else. CSXT very much wants to work with federal railroad, security and commerce officials, as well as communities, producers and end- users, to create fair and balanced, long-term national solutions,” said CSX Senior Vice President-Law and Public Affairs, Ellen M. Fitzsimmons.

CSXT has been active in efforts to enhance security in the DC area. According to Skip Elliott, CSXT Vice President for Public Safety and Environment, “The security efforts surrounding CSXT’s core Washington, DC route are among the most aggressive in the United States as a result of close collaboration between this company and federal security agencies.”

“Our concern is increasing risk associated with these movements. That is because in many cases the only alternative route would add hundreds of miles and, therefore, require chemicals to run through and be collected close to more neighborhoods outside DC. We estimate that the legislation would add about two million miles to the routes of the shipments that the DC Council considers the most dangerous,” Elliott said.