DC sets up regulations to enforce hazmat shipment ban

| Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The District of Columbia has issued emergency regulations to implement a ban it placed on the shipment of hazardous materials within 2 miles of the U.S. Capitol building, the city announced in a release.

Starting April 11, the restrictions – which are being issued by the city’s Department of Transportation – will require any railroads shipping hazmat to obtain a permit to move the material within the zone. A CSX rail line runs within blocks of the Capitol building in Washington, DC, and the railroad has vigorously fought the new regulation.

However, the city is still working on the restrictions for motor carriers who haul hazmat, and those rules are not expected until later.

The city’s move to issue rules is only the latest round in the fight over hazmat shipments in the nation’s capital.

The conflict started earlier this year when city officials in Washington, DC, passed the bill to prohibit the shipment of certain hazardous materials within 2 miles of the Capitol. DC Mayor Anthony Williams signed the bill Feb. 15, putting the ban into place for 90 days, DC Councilwoman Kathy Patterson, the bill’s chief sponsor, said.

Because of the unique way that the District of Columbia works, the bill must be passed three ways. First, the emergency measure, then a so-called “temporary bill,” which would extend the ban for 225 days, and then a third, “permanent” measure must be passed.

However, in late March Rep. Ed Markey, D-MA, joined in the battle taking it to the federal level. He introduced legislation to the House of Representatives called the Extremely Hazardous Materials Transportation Security Act of 2005.

His bill would require the Department of Homeland Security to reroute shipments of highly hazardous materials around areas that raise particular security concerns – such as the nation’s capital or other possible terrorist targets – when a safer route is available, according to a statement on Markey’s Web site.

While the bill addresses all shipments of hazardous materials, its wording and Markey’s statements indicate that it is primarily targeted at rail transportation.

At the time of Markey’s bill, Sen. Jon Corzine, D-NJ, reportedly planned to introduce a similar bill in the Senate.

In early April, that a federal judge stepped into the controversy, hoping to bring CSX and the city of Washington to a compromise over the shipments, The Washington Post reported.

Under the plan proposed by U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, for 30 days, the city would not enforce its ban, and CSX would cease the shipments while both sides met to reach a compromise.