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Massachusetts v. Department of Transp.

ELR Citation: 26 ELR 21652
Nos. 95-5175, 93 F.3d 890/43 ERC 1231/(D.C. Cir., 08/27/1996)

The court holds that the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (HMTA) does not preempt state bonding requirements for hazardous waste carriers. A waste industry trade group challenged a Massachusetts regulation requiring the posting of a $10,000 bond for hazardous waste transportation within the state. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) determined that the HMTA preempted the bond requirement, because the requirement created an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the HMTA. The court first assumes, without deciding, that the principles of Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, 14 ELR 20507 (U.S. 1984) encompass an agency's interpretation of an explicit preemption provision. Under the first step of Chevron's analysis, the court is almost compelled to reject DOT's reading of the HMTA's provision requiring preemption of state regulations that are obstacles to carrying out the Act. The HMTA intends only to preempt state rules with which a party cannot comply if it complies with the HMTA, or state rules that otherwise pose an obstacle to fulfilling explicit provisions, not general policies, of the HMTA. To read the provision as DOT suggests would render the Act's other preemption provision superfluous. In addition, DOT's interpretation runs afoul of the established presumption against preemption in matters of traditional state control. And even if DOT's interpretation were to pass the first step of Chevron, because of that presumption and DOT's interpretation regarding the Act's other preemption provision superfluous the court would still not find it reasonable.

Counsel for Appellant
Douglas H. Wilkins, Ass't Attorney General
Attorney General's Office
One Ashburton Pl., Boston MA 02108
(617) 727-2200

Counsel for Appellee
Sushma Soni
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Before: SENTELLE, RANDOLPH, and ROGERS, Circuit Judges.