Judge Rules against CSX over Ban; Railroad Can't Transport Hazardous Materials through Washington, D.C

Article excerpt

Byline: TIMOTHY J. GIBBONS, The Times-Union

Saying that Washington, D.C., is filling a gap in federal safety regulations, a district court judge refused Monday to strike down the city's law banning CSX Transportation trains from carrying hazardous materials through the city.

CSX might prevail as the case moves forward, District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan said, but the Jacksonville-based railroad has not proved that it would be unduly harmed by the ban.

The Washington, D.C., city council passed the ban in February, seeking to regulate the transport of "ultrahazardous materials" within 2.2 miles of the U.S. Capitol, according to Council member Kathy Patterson. CSX operates two rail lines within Washington, both of which are in the prohibited zone.

CSX sued the city Feb. 16, the day after D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams signed the resolution into law, saying it would affect interstate commerce, interfere with federal regulations and invite other jurisdictions to establish similar regulations.

In his ruling, Sullivan said none of those arguments were persuasive: Washington is not trying to unconstitutionally regulate interstate commerce for economic reasons, the district's local safety regulations don't contradict broader federal laws and the federal capital is in an unusual situation, so the ruling doesn't necessarily apply to other municipalities.

The railroad is offering "only vague predictions of increased costs and logistical burdens," Sullivan wrote. "These burdens pale in comparison to the potential devastation predicted to occur in the event of a terrorist attack on a railcar transporting hazmats in the nation's capital. …