: News

Court Case Pits Alexandria Against Railroad Company

Play associated audio

By Michael Pope

Today about 70 trucks carrying a class three hazardous substance known as liquid ethanol will leave the Van Dorn Yard behind Tucker Elementary School and head toward the Capital Beltway.

That’s more than three times the number of trucks allowed by a permit issued by the Alexandria Transportation Department back in 2008. Yet the city’s authority to issue that permit was rejected last year by a federal judge.

Now attorneys for the city have come to Richmond in an effort to persuade a three-judge appeals panel that decision was wrong.

"Just because there is a connection to the facility does not mean that everything touching it is preempted," says Alexandria's attorney Eric Pilsk. "Otherwise, every activity by a customer leaving a railroad yard would be immune from local regulation under the cloak of railroad transportation."

Not surprisingly, Norfolk Southern disagreed. In oral arguments lawyers for the railroad giant argued this case is exactly why federal laws trump local ordinances.

"The last thing we want is to give the authority to make rules for handling hazardous materials to 50 different states and hundreds - if not thousands - of localities," says Norfolk Southern attorney Gary Bryant. "Otherwise, can you imagine, we would have to have several rail cars just to carry the manuals with all the rules."

The decision could have far-reaching implications for other jurisdictions trying to limit the amount of hazardous materials moving from rail cars to streets across the county.

A decision is expected within the next six months.

WAMU 88.5

Kate Mulgrew: "Born With Teeth" (Rebroadcast)

Kate Mulgrew, who stars as "Red" in the Netflix TV series "Orange Is The New Black", opens up in a new memoir about her complicated family and the baby she gave away for adoption as a young woman.


Swapping The Street For The Orchard, City Dwellers Take Their Pick Of Fruit

Urban foragers don't just pick their meals from the trash; many eat only the finest, freshest produce — picked from city trees. The League of Urban Canners harvests fruit from trees to make jam.

Reconsidering The Pilgrims, Piety And America's Founding Principles

Conservatives who want to emphasize America's Christian roots embrace the story of the Pilgrims and the Mayflower Compact. But some historians say their role in the country's founding is overstated.

From Takeout To Breakups: Apps Can Deliver Anything, For A Price

Convenience is at an all-time premium — and a lot of smartphone apps promise to make many of the things we do every day easier. In a time-crunch or sheer laziness, how far will the apps take us?

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.