The District of Columbia’s quest to stop hazardous materials
shipments within two miles of the Capitol Building hit two snags this week.
A federal appeals court acted Wednesday, April 20,
temporarily putting a stop to the District’s ban on the shipments, which was
passed by the City Council and signed into law by Mayor Anthony A. Williams
Feb. 15. The District’s Department of Transportation put rules into effect enforcing
the ban only eight days before the court’s ruling, and they were scheduled to
go into effect Wednesday.
The court ruling came in response to an appeal filed by CSX
Railroad Monday, April 18, CSX officials said in a statement. While the DC
ordinance mentions all hazmat shipments, the controversy has centered on rail
shipments moving through CSX’s network.
The appeals court noted that the stay was not a ruling on the merits of
the railroad’s motion. A hearing in the case could come as early as Monday, April
25, The Washington Post reported.
Meanwhile, the Federal Motor
Carrier Safety Administration put a notice on the Federal Register April 20
regarding the shipments. In the notice, the agency asked for public comments on “whether federal hazardous
transportation law pre-empts highway routing requirements of the District of Columbia in restricting transportation of certain hazardous materials.”
The notice indicated that after
officials at FMCSA review the comments, they will issue an administrative
ruling in the case. The ruling was requested by the ATA, which opposes the DC
The conflict over
hazmat shipments started earlier this year when city officials in Washington,
DC, passed a bill sponsored by DC Councilmember Kathy Patterson to prohibit the
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, according to a statement on Markey’s Web site.
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 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.