Judge Upholds D.C. Hazmat Ban
by Guest Blogger, 4/19/2005
On April 18, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan upheld a new Washington, DC, law prohibiting hazardous cargo rail shipments near the U.S. Capitol. Sullivan said that the District has a right to protect itself from an accident involving hazardous chemicals, because the federal government has failed to do so. CSX, the rail company challenging the District's new law, immediately appealed the ban on April 19th and won a ruling blocking the ban, which was scheduled to take effect April 20. The federal appeals court stated that it needs more time to review the legal issues surrounding the ban. Sullivan's decision and CSX's appeal come after CSX and the federal government refused to engage in settlement talks with the city that could have avoided a costly legal battle. The refusal was unfortunate but not unexpected. Given the company's position that the law is an unconstitutional infringement of interstate commerce, it makes legal sense that the company would avoid appearing to give credence to the policy by negotiating on the matter. Unfortunately, this prevented any real progress or even constructive discussion on a genuine safety concern and forces the courts to resolve the issue.