Tag Archives: Union Pacific

BNSF, Union Pacific lawsuit: claims California’s new rail hazmat fee illegal

Repost from Hazmat Magazine
[Note: The complaint is available at http://src.bna.com/hm1. – RS]

California’s new Rail Hazmat Fee Illegal Claims Railroads

By J Nicholson, August 11, 2016

As reported in Bloomberg BNA, California’s new fee on rail deliveries of crude oil and certain other hazardous materials is illegal, the nation’s two largest railroad companies said in a lawsuit ( BNSF Railway Co. v. California State Board of Equalization, N.D. Cal., No. 16-cv-04311-JCS, 7/29/16 ).

Filed in federal court in San Francisco, the complaint challenges a newly approved regulation requiring railroad companies to collect from their customers $45 for each rail car carrying 25 specified hazardous materials into the state. To be paid to the state’s Board of Equalization, the fee is earmarked to help the state prepare for hazardous material incidents.

The federal ICC Termination Act of 1995, the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act and the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 preempt the fee implemented under S.B. 84, a budget bill enacted in 2015, the complaint said.

Plaintiffs want an order blocking the state from collecting the fee.

RAILWAY-TRACK

“This hazmat charge defies federal law and economic logic,” the complaint filed July 29 by BNSF Railway Co. and Union Pacific Railroad Co. said. “If exclusive federal jurisdiction over the economic relationship between railroads and their customers means anything, it means that a State cannot establish the charges to be collected for rail transportation, order a railroad to collect them from its customers, and depress rail revenues and customer demand in the process.”

Chemicals Covered by Fee

California’s Office of Emergency Services adopted the fee regulation in June.  Expected to take effect later this year, the fee applies to rail cars containing acetonitrile, certain alcohols, anhydrous ammonia, ammonium hydroxide and calcium hypochlorite.  It also applies to chlorine, certain corrosive liquids, diesel fuel, environmentally hazardous substances, ethanol, gasoline, hydrogen peroxide, liquefied petroleum gas, liquefied gas, methanol, methyl ethyl ketone, nitric acid, petroleum crude oil, phenol, phosphoric acid, potassium hydroxide, propylene, sodium hydroxide, sulfuric acid, toluene and vinyl acetate.

California’s fee only applies to rail deliveries, no other type of delivery of hazardous materials.  The Interstate Commerce Clause and the federal hazardous materials law forbid states from discriminating against interstate commerce, the complaint said.

Benjamin J. Horwich of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP is representing BNSF Railway.  Union Pacific’s counsel are from Sidley Austin LLP and include Carol Lynn Thompson and in-house attorney Melissa B. Hagan.

A copy of the complaint is available at http://src.bna.com/hm1.

    Are Oil Trains Just Too Heavy? No Regulations, No Weigh To Know

    Repost from DeSmogBlog
    [Editor: Apologies for the ad content. My retired volunteer budget won’t allow the $5 per DeSmog article for no ads.  🙁   – RS]

    Are Oil Trains Just Too Heavy? No Regulations, No Weigh To Know

    The cause of the most recent bomb train derailment and fire in Mosier, OR has been determined to be lag bolts that had sheared off resulting in the derailment. This once again raises concerns that the unit trains of oil are putting too much stress on the tracks due to their excessive weight and length. There… Continue reading Are Oil Trains Just Too Heavy? No Regulations, No Weigh To Know

      VIDEO RECAP: Mass Casualty Drill in Roseville, CA

      Repost from Rocklin & Roseville Today
      [Editor:  Be aware that these exercises and the promo “news accounts” that follow them are not much more than rosy public relation spins on the reality of catastrophic spills, fires and explosions resulting from oil train derailments. We can hope the first responders learned something, but no one is telling them – or us – that in a real crude oil explosion and fire, the ONLY thing to be done is evacuate and let it burn. See previous announcement details here, additional coverage by the City of Roseville. and the event Goals and Objectives worksheet here.   – RS]

      Video Recap: Roseville Mass Casualty Drill

      Placer County / Thursday, May 19, 2016

      ROSEVILLE, Calif. — First responders from 35 local agencies converged on Roseville to rescue the victims of a staged but horrific accident: a collision of a train carrying volatile crude oil and a public transit bus. But the evacuation and treatment of the injured was just the beginning.

      Fire fighters, police and other emergency workers then had to contend with leaking oil from one derailed train car, an ammonia gas leak from another and a fire when the crude ignited. First word of the accident reached them at around 8:15 a.m. By 11:30 a.m., exercise players had evacuated 57 injured bus riders to area hospitals (several by helicopter), built a temporary dam to contain the oil spill, extinguished the fire and coordinated the (pretend) evacuation of 8,000 area residents. Thank goodness it was just a drill.

      “If such a large disaster ever did happen here, we’d need everyone to be on the same page and working together as effectively as possible, because lives depend on it,” said John McEldowney, program manager for Placer County’s Office of Emergency Services. “We definitely learned some lessons today, but overall I couldn’t have been more impressed with the professionalism and skill of our first responders. If the worst happens, I’m confident we’ll be in the best of hands.”

      The exercise took place at the Roseville Fire Department Training Center in Roseville, near the Union Pacific switchyards, with medical evacuations staged in the parking lot of Denio’s Market up the road.

      Placer County’s Office of Emergency Services held the exercise to give first responders from various agencies the opportunity to practice working together and test how well they can come together in a crisis. It was also a great chance to test the county’s recently finalized oil-by-rail response guide, which was developed to aid our first responder fire and law enforcement community and specialized response teams in the unlikely event an oil train disaster were to occur here.

      The Red Cross coordinated for the participation of nearly 60 volunteers, most of them serving as mock accident victims.

      For the quickest warning and information in a real crisis, Placer residents are encouraged to sign up for the Placer Alert emergency notification system at placer-alert.org.