Appeals Court Rules for CSXT in Hazmat Ban; Jacksonville-Based Firm Will Continue Shipping Materials through Washington, D.C

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Byline: TIMOTHY J. GIBBONS

CSX Transportation will be allowed to continue shipping hazardous materials through the District of Columbia after the U.S. Court of Appeals decided that federal law doesn't allow the city to ban such shipments.

The court of appeals released an order Tuesday night instructing the district court that first ruled on the matter to stop enforcement of the ban "in light of CSXT's very high likelihood of success on the merits."

The district court had originally ruled on the matter in April, finding that Washington, D.C., was allowed to ban the trains.

The Jacksonville-based railroad company presented several arguments in fighting the D.C. law, but the appeals court focused on just one: that the Federal Railroad Safety Act, which generally doesn't let governmental entities other than the Department of Transportation pass laws concerning railroads, preempts the actions by the D.C. city council.

The District of Columbia passed the ban on hazardous materials in November in order to "reduce the risk of attacks by terrorists," saying the federal government had not done enough to make sure such shipments were safe. The act stopped trains or trucks from carrying hazardous materials within 2.2 miles of the Capitol building, an area that includes two CSX rail lines.

In his original ruling on April 18, District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan agreed with the D.C. city council on the security issue, saying it was unclear what type of security plan is in place.

"In fact, at the March 23rd hearing, no one in the courtroom -- not even the attorneys for the government or CSXT -- had ever seen the plan," the judge said in his ruling.

CSX immediately appealed the ruling, and the three-member circuit court panel said that the Department of Transportation had set up regulations to secure hazardous material shipments, and that the District of Columbia was simply complaining that the department had not gone far enough. …