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Public Statements

Letter to Chairwoman Corrine Brown

Letter

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Letter to Chairwoman Corrine Brown

In light of a decision yesterday by the Surface Transportation Board (STB) that said local environmental regulations cannot preempt federal rules that cover railways, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) today called on the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials to conduct a hearing on his Clean Railroads Act of 2007.

Yesterday, in a case involving New England Transrail (NET), the STB ruled 2-1 that activities, such as loading, unloading, handling and storing waste, which are defined in federal statute as being part of "transportation," fall within the Board's exclusive jurisdiction.

In a letter to Subcommittee Chairwoman Corrine Brown, the New Jersey congressman asked that she hold a hearing on his legislation, which simply fills a loophole in the law so that state and local governments can regulate solid waste transfer stations built next to interstate rail lines. (A COPY OF THE LETTER FOLLOWS.)

"Yesterdays' ruling at the STB proves that this legislation is necessary to protect state and local authority's rights to protect their citizens," Pallone wrote in his letter to Chairwoman Brown. "I would hope you would consider holding a hearing on this bill so that we can move one step closer to preventing companies from exploiting this loophole in order to better protect our citizens."

In New Jersey, some waste handlers and railroad companies are exploiting a so-called loophole in federal law to set up unregulated waste transfer facilities. Under the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995, the STB has exclusive jurisdiction over "transportation by rail carriers" and the ability to grant federal preemption over other laws at any level -- local, state, or federal -- that might impede such transportation. Pallone said Congress intended such authority to extend only to transportation by rail, not to the operation of facilities that are merely sited next to rail operations.

Currently, more than a dozen railroad transfer facilities have been proposed or are now in operation in New Jersey, one of which handles hazardous waste. The state has tried repeatedly to impose regulations on the trash piles in an effort to protect those New Jerseyans who live and work near them.

Last February, Pallone introduced H.R. 1248, The Clean Railroads Act of 2007, in the U.S. House of Representatives that will ensure solid waste facilities next to rail lines fall under the same regulations as every other waste facility, which would allow New Jersey to regulate these facilities.

July 11, 2007

Chairwoman Corrine Brown

House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials
2336 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20515-0903

Dear Chairwoman Brown,

I am writing to request that you hold a hearing on H.R. 1248, the Clean Railroads Act of 2007. This bill simply excludes solid waste disposal from the jurisdiction of the Surface Transportation Board (STB) so that state and local governments can protect their citizens by regulating solid waste transfer stations built next to interstate freight rail lines.

Yesterday, in a case involving New England Transrail (NET), the STB ruled 2-1 that local environmental regulations cannot preempt federal rules that cover railways. In the decision, the STB proposed that activities, such as loading, unloading, handling and storing waste, which are defined in federal statute as being part of "transportation", fall within the Board's exclusive jurisdiction.

Under the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995, the Surface Transportation Board has exclusive jurisdiction over "transportation by rail carriers" and the ability to grant federal preemption over other laws at any level -- local, state, or federal -- that might impede such transportation. Congress intended such authority to extend only to transportation by rail, not to the operation of facilities that are merely sited next to rail operations or have a business connection to a rail company.

H.R. 1248 would give state and local authorities the ability to uphold their environmental and human health regulations concerning solid waste by clarifying that solid waste disposal is not under the jurisdiction of the STB.

Yesterdays' ruling at the STB proves that this legislation is necessary to protect state and local authority's rights to protect their citizens. I would hope you would consider holding a hearing on this bill so that we can move one step closer to preventing companies from exploiting this loophole in order to better protect our citizens.

Sincerely,
___________________________

FRANK PALLONE, JR.

Member of Congress


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