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CSXT asks U.S. district court to block D.C.'s haz-mat ban

Yesterday, CSX Transportation officials filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking to declare invalid and block implementation of the Council of the District of Columbia's temporary ban on moving hazardous materials into the city. CSXT officials also plan to obtain a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the council.

On Feb. 15, D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams signed into law the council's emergency bill (passed on Feb. 1) that bans rail and truck haz-mat shipments — including certain explosives and poisonous gases, such as chlorine — within two miles of the nation's capitol for 90 days.

Railroad officials claim the ban violates the U.S. Constitution's commerce clause and Federal Railroad Safety Act's preemptive provisions, as well as the Hazardous Materials Transportation and Interstate Commerce Commission Termination acts.

As a common carrier, CSXT is required by federal law to transport hazardous materials, officials claim, adding that compliance with the ban 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," according to a prepared statement.

CSXT officials believe that using alternative routes will add about 2 million miles to haz-mat shipments moving around the D.C. area, and require chemicals and other materials to move through and be collected in communities outside the city.

"Doubling the shipment times, the miles traveled and the handling requirements of dangerous materials, as the D.C. ordinance would require in many cases, just increases risk to everyone else," said CSX Corp. Senior Vice President of Law and Public Affairs Ellen Fitzsimmons. "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."

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More News from 2/17/2005