Via Patricia Sullivan, a rather in-depth look at the federal rail exemption/loophole railroad companies like Norfolk Southern impose on towns across the United States.
See this link for reference on Norfolk Southern’s expansion efforts in Alexandria, Virginia.
Well worth a read. See if any of it sounds familiar…and yes, Alexandria is mentioned in the article.
In December 2012, Delli Priscoli finally unveiled his plans to more than 100 residents at a meeting in the municipal gym. The railroad yard, he announced, was to become a propane transfer or “transloading” facility, meaning that propane would be brought there by rail and unloaded onto tanker trucks to be distributed. With four 120-foot long, 80,000-gallon storage tanks to be filled by up to 2,000 train tank cars a year, it would be the biggest rail propane facility in Massachusetts.
Residents were dumbfounded: The location was in the middle of a residential neighborhood, less than 2,000 feet from an elementary school and atop the town’s water supply. But, aside from an application to the state’s fire marshal (still unapproved), the railroad’s owner had not requested nor obtained, town officials say, any local construction permits, environmental assessments, zoning variances — or permission.
And as residents would learn, it was the railroad’s position that it didn’t have to: Being a railroad, the Grafton & Upton was exempt from any state or local law that interfered with its business, a legal doctrine known as pre-emption.
As one resident put it, “You mean we have no rights?”
Around the country, in towns as small as Grafton and as large as Philadelphia and Chicago, communities are beginning to ask the same question as the domestic energy boom makes the expansion of railway infrastructure — to host trains carrying crude oil, propane and ethanol — a profitable venture indeed.
Read more at this link.