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CSX Transp., Inc. v. Public Utils. Comm'n of Ohio

Citation: 19 ELR 21289
No. No. C2-88-1023, 701 F. Supp. 608/(S.D. Ohio, 12/12/1988)

The court rules that state laws regulating the transportation of hazardous materials by rail are governed by the strict preemption provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) rather than the more liberal preemption provisions of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (HMTA). The court first holds that the enactment of the HMTA was not an implied repeal of the FRSA's preemption provisions. The HMTA's liberal preemption standard applies only to regulations affecting modes of transportation other than railroads. The HMTA's transfer of authority over hazardous materials transportation from the Federal Railroad Administration to the Department of Transportation does not imply that the regulations should not be governed by the FRSA's preemption provisions, since the strict preemption provisions of the FRSA apply to hazardous materials regulations relating to rail transport issued by the Secretary of Transportation under the HMTA. The legislative history shows clear congressional intent that rail safety regulations be uniform nationwide. Further, Congress has chosen not to amend either the FRSA or the HMTA preemption provisions to overturn judicial and executive branch interpretations finding that the FRSA preemption standard applies to HMTA regulations. The court holds that the Ohio statutes and regulations that establish a statewide system of railroad safety standards are preempted by the FRSA and that plaintiffs are entitled to an order enjoining enforcement of the state provisions.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Patrick J. Smith, Robert W. Trafford
Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur
41 S. High St., Columbus OH 43215-3406
(614) 227-2000

Counsel for Defendants
Anthony J. Celebrezze Jr., Attorney General; Robert S. Tongren, James B. Gaines, Ass't Attorneys General
State Office Tower, 30 E. Broad St., 17th Fl., Columbus OH 43266-0410
(614) 466-3376