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Cleveland becomes city No. 2 to pursue haz-mat ban

Although a legal fight with the rail industry is stalling Washington, D.C.’s effort to enact a law that will temporarily ban hazardous-material shipments within two miles of the city, Cleveland plans to join the nation’s capitol in adopting legislation that would ban the materials from moving through Ohio’s largest city. Earlier this week, Cleveland’s city council introduced a haz-mat ban law.

Just as it’s opposing the D.C. ban, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) is against the Cleveland measure.

“It is unfortunate, but not unexpected, that Cleveland is considering [this] proposal,” said AAR President and Chief Executive Officer Edward Hamberger in a prepared statement. “Railroads are required under federal law to carry hazardous materials. If local communities were to be free to pass such laws, we would be left with a patchwork quilt of local laws that could make it impossible to ship these commodities from where they are produced to where they are needed.”

The U.S. departments of Justice, Transportation and Homeland Security, and the Surface Transportation Board also oppose haz-mat bans because rerouting the materials would increase the total miles tank cars travel and total time the materials are in transit, increasing the cargo’s exposure to potential terrorist acts.

“Rerouting is a serious issue that requires serious discussion at the federal level,” said Hamberger.

On May 3, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned D.C.’s ban and issued a preliminary injunction that halts the city from instituting the ban. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia — which previously upheld the ban — will re-consider arguments and evidence. A final decision is expected in six months to a year.

Several other cities, including Atlanta, Baltimore and Cincinnati, also are considering whether to pursue haz-mat ban legislation.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/13/2005