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Rail News: Positive Train Control

U.S. appellate court denies Chlorine Institute's PTC-related lawsuit against the FRA


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia last week dismissed a lawsuit filed by The Chlorine Institute against the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) that challenged a 2012 final positive train control (PTC) rule. The rule is associated with the federal mandate requiring railroads to deploy PTC on lines used to transport hazardous materials.

The institute had argued that the FRA rule governing certain aspects of PTC implementation would constrain or eliminate chemical producers' ability to ship products by rail because hazardous chemicals would be allowed to move only on lines outfitted with the technology. The institute challenged the FRA's decision to omit from the 2012 final rule a two-part risk assessment test previously included in two previous rules that a carrier had to satisfy in order to exclude a rail line from mandated PTC implementation.

The institute failed to demonstrate any business harm chemical shippers would suffer from the final rule, according to the court ruling. The FRA had acknowledged that the rule would result in a smaller number of rail lines featuring PTC systems and would cause more re-routing of haz-mat traffic.

The court's decision "goes a long way toward" preserving chemical shippers' ability to safely ship chlorine by rail where it's needed and affirms the right of shippers to move products safely, Chlorine Institute officials said in a press release. The ruling also invites the institute to pursue further legal action as PTC implementation advances if any actual harm occurs to shippers or a more imminent threat arises, they said.

"The concurring decision finds that a railroad will have to equip relevant track with positive train control upon reasonable request for service by chlorine shippers," said Chlorine Institute President Frank Reiner. "This finding alleviates shippers' fears of the inability to ship product to where it is needed, which was the essence of the complaint."

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More News from 6/17/2013