By Michael Pope
In Virginia, the contours of local authority are at the heart of a legal case unfolding at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Does the city of Alexandria have authority to regulate trucks carrying liquid ethanol that arrives from rail cars?
According to a recent federal district court, no it doesn't. Appealing that decision, attorney Eric Pilsk says the court was wrong to conclude that federal laws governing railroads preempted local authority.
"Because the regulation of trucks is not railroad transportation," says Pilsk. "It's just that simple."
But Gary Bryant, attorney for Norfolk Southern, says the city’s attempt to limit the number of trucks would create more problems than it solves.
"I would love to hear what the citizens of Alexandria would have to say if we said we were going to have to build a tank farm and store two and a half million gallons of ethanol in their neighborhood," says Bryant.
The court is expected to rule in the next few months.