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New York v. Department of Transp.

ELR Citation: 29 ELR 21328
Nos. No. 97-CV-784, 37 F. Supp. 2d 152/(N.D.N.Y., 02/09/1999)

The court holds that the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (HMTA) preempts a New York regulation that prohibits the repackaging of hazardous wastes. The court first holds that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has primary jurisdiction over the regulation and transportation of hazardous material including hazardous waste. While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has jurisdiction over the regulation of hazardous waste management under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), EPA is statutorily obligated to coordinate its RCRA obligations applicable to transporters of hazardous waste with DOT regulations applicable to transporters of all hazardous material. As such, the court also holds that EPA's authorization of a state RCRA program is not the equivalent of a regulation that is authorized by another law of the United States, which would allow it to escape HMTA preemption.

The court next upholds DOT's determination that the state regulation concerned a covered subject and, thus, was preempted by the HMTA. Although it is unclear whether Congress intended for packing and repacking under the HMTA to include the subject matter that the state regulation covers, DOT's interpretation was permissible. When a transporter consolidates or transfers loads either by repackaging, mixing, or pumping from one container or transport vehicle into another, the transporter is inevitably engaging in the repackaging of the hazardous wastes. Therefore, the state regulation appears to fall into the covered subject of packing and repacking hazardous wastes.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
Attorney General's Office
State Capitol, Albany NY 12224
(518) 474-7330

Counsel for Defendants
Thomas J. Maroney
U.S. Attorney's Office
231 Foley U.S. CtHse.
445 Broadway, Albany NY 12207
(518) 431-0247