Thursday, June 17, 2010

Norfolk Southern Railway v. City of Alexandria

Jun 16: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, Case No. 09-1566 & 09-1608. The Court explains that the appeals concern whether three separate provisions of Federal law serve to preempt an ordinance enacted by the City of Alexandria, Virginia (the City). The City's ordinance has been applied to Norfolk Southern Railway Company (Norfolk Southern) through a series of haul permits. In its appeal, the City maintains that the district court erred in ruling that two Federal statutes -- the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (the ICCTA) and the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (the HMTA) -- preempt the ordinance and haul permits. By cross-appeal, Norfolk Southern challenges the court's conclusion that a third statute, the Federal Rail Safety Act (the FRSA), does not also preempt the ordinance and permits.
    The majority opinion affirmed in part, dismissed in part, and vacated in part. The Appeals Court said, ". . .we affirm the district court's decision on preemption with respect to the ICCTA. Because that disposition renders moot the alternative bases for federal preemption, we dismiss the HMTA aspect of the City's appeal, as well as the cross-appeal. Finally, we vacate the court's judgment on the HMTA and FRSA preemption claims." The third Judge, wrote an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.
    The dissent said, "I join the majority in affirming the district court's ruling on the ICCTA issue, but respectfully disagree with its decision to vacate the district court's rulings on the HMTA and FRSA issues. Rather than vacating those rulings, I would affirm the district court's judgment on the ICCTA issue, dismiss the City's appeal of the court's HMTA ruling, and dismiss Norfolk Southern's cross-appeal of the FRSA ruling."
    Access the complete opinion and dissent (click here).