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Advantage CSXT: Appellate court overturns D.C. haz-mat ban

CSX Transportation officials can breath a sigh of relief — for now. On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned the Council of the District of Columbia's ban that sought to temporarily prohibit hazardous materials shipments from moving within two miles of D.C., and issued a preliminary injunction that halts the city from instituting the ban. CSXT had appealed an earlier U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia decision that upheld the ban and sought to have the ban declared invalid.

The appellate court ruling “provides necessary and welcome clarity in the legal dispute,” CSXT officials said in a prepared statement. “Several U.S. government agencies asked the courts to strike down the District of Columbia law and the Surface Transportation Board has ruled that the law is preempted by federal statute.”

Association of American Railroads (AAR) officials also are pleased with the decision, which agrees with what the rail industry and U.S. departments of Transportation, Homeland Security and Justice have said all along: rerouting haz-mat shipments compromises safety and shifts risk to other communities, AAR officials said.

“Since 9/11, we have worked with Homeland Security to develop a security plan that has been hailed as a model for other industries,” said AAR President and Chief Executive Officer Edward Hamberger. “As long as our national policies dictate that these chemicals must move, the railroad industry is committed to transporting hazardous materials with maximum attention to safety and security.”

The D.C. law would have prohibited moves of certain explosives and poisonous gases — such as chlorine — in the city for 90 days. The ban was scheduled to take effect April 20 until CSXT took legal action. D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams said city officials are “deflated” by the appellate court decision and considering other options, such as appealing to the Supreme Court, or changing the law’s language or ban’s boundaries.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/5/2005