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D.C. hazmat ban struck down for now

D.C. hazmat ban struck down for now

D.C. hazmat ban struck down for now

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on May 3 handed down a preliminary injunction, favoring railroad company CSXT, that blocks the District of Columbia from enacting an emergency ban on all rail and truck shipments of hazardous materials within 2.2 mi. of the U.S. Capitol.

The Court, which has yet to reach a final decision in the case, stated that there is “substantial likelihood of the success of the argument” that the D.C. Act is preempted by the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA). However, the opinion does not address CSXT’s other challenges to the D.C. Act based on provisions of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act and interstate commerce laws.

The Court said it appears that the emergency act fails to meet the FRSA exemption criteria in that it may “not unreasonably burden interstate commerce,” noting that a patchwork of hazmat transport regulations could result if the ban were determined to be legal.

“In assessing the burden, it is appropriate for us to consider the practical and cumulative impact were other States to enact legislation similar to the D.C. Act,” stated the Court, noting that the California Senate is now considering a similar law.

“Of course the Court does not minimize the calamitous consequences of a terrorist attack on a rail car transporting Banned Materials through the District,” the Court said. “The effect of the D.C. Act, however, is simply to shift this risk, or at least some of this risk, to other jurisdictions.”

Rich Moskowitz, American Trucking Assns.’ regulatory affairs council, said that the court order does indicate a significant victory for CSXT.

“It is an instruction to the district court as to the likelihood of the legal claim that D.C. is without authority of the enforcement to this type of restriction because the federal law preempts it,” Moskowitz told Fleet Owner. “It sends also a strong message to other jurisdictions that are viewing this case before moving forward with their own legislation,” he added.

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