Saturday, August 08, 2015

The Train Bill

Train Bill Being Challenged by Norfolk Southern

A bill seeking to limit the operation of locomotives in Delaware is being challenged.

Approved by the General Assembly in June on a contested vote in both chambers, Senate Bill 135 would prohibit the "non-essential idling of locomotives between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m."

 The sponsors of the bill -- State Sen. Dave McBride, D-Hawk's Nest, and State Reps. Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear & Melanie George Smith, D-Bear-Newark -- maintain that idling locatives degrade the quality of life of Delawareans living near freight lines.

Freight train operations have increased significantly in northern New Castle County over the last two years as the Delaware City oil refinery has switched its feedstock from foreign crude shipped by tankers to Canadian oil sent via rail cars.

The measure has not yet been sent to Gov. Jack Markell, whose signature is needed for it to become law.

The Norfolk Southern Corporation is not waiting for the bill's enactment.  Earlier this week, company officials filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Transportation's Surface Transportation Board (STB) challenging the measure. In the August 4th action, the railroad company asked the STB for an "expedited declaratory order" finding the bill's idling restrictions "preempted by federal law."

Should Gov. Markell sign the bill, Norfolk Southern officials said in a letter sent to State House Minority Leader Danny Short, R-Seaford, that they intend to ask a federal court to block its enforcement.

State Rep.
Rich Collins

Rep. Short was one of four House members to vote against the bill. The others were State Reps. Ruth Briggs King, R--Georgetown-Long Neck; Rich Collins, R--Millsboro; & Lyndon Yearick, R--Camden-Woodside.

In all, 11 lawmakers cast dissenting votes.

 Rep. Short said while he is no fan of Norfolk Southern, who he says has been less than vigilant maintaining its rail crossings in the state, he thought the legislation was hastily introduced and considered.

"It seemed to be a quick reaction to eliminate an annoyance for local constituents, without much reflection on if it was mechanically feasible or on what impact it would have on train operations," he said.  "I thought more information was needed before we could to make a thoughtful decision.  It wasn't provided, so I felt compelled to vote against it."

The bill was introduced in the Senate on June 11th and cleared the House after 9 p.m. on June 30th, the last night of 2015 legislative session.
The above was picked up from The Delaware House of Representatives e-newsletter

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