The ban that was issued as an ordinance by the D.C. City Council on February 1 and signed into law on February 15 forbids hazardous chemical transportation within 2.2 miles of the Capitol Building unless it is permitted by the City’s Department of Transportation. Under pressure, the City tentatively put off enforcement of the law until April 20 at the earliest.
CSX, which owns the rail line that passes within three blocks of the Capitol, has filed a petition to have the law declared unconstitutional. Supporting the railroad – though with opinions only since they have no force of law – are a variety of entities, including the Surface Transportation Board, the U.S. Department of Transportation and a number of trade associations, including those in the chemical industry. According to some reports, rerouting railcars in order to meet requirements of the law would cost CSX between $2 and $3 million.
U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, who is hearing the case, offered to negotiate a settlement between the railroad and City Council. The offer was turned down. CSX wants a court ruling on the ban, which may now be coming this week.
No matter what the decision, it will almost certainly be appealed.