FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 30, 2007
Schumer Backs Bill To Give Local Authorities In Croton And Middletown The Power To Keep Solid-Waste Transfer Stations On Rail Lines Out Of Communities' Backyards
Currently Federal Agency STB Has Exclusive Jurisdiction over All Rail Transportation, Allowing Companies to Use Federal Loophole to Avoid State and Local Scrutiny for the Construction of New Solid Waste Facilities
Rail Companies are Presently Considering Building Waste Stations Near Communities in Croton and Middletown
Schumer Backs Legislation to Remove STB's Jurisdiction Over Solid Waste Facilities Along Rail Lines - Gives Local Authorities Power to Regulate Construction of New Facilities
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer pushed for a federal provision that will protect the Towns of Croton and Middletown from having solid-waste transfer stations constructed in their residential neighborhoods without local regulation. In the past few years, rail companies have attempted to use the Surface Transportation Board’s (STB) federal authority to bypass local and state regulations in efforts to site solid-waste stations transfer stations in Croton and Middletown.
Today, Schumer urged the Joint Senate-House Conference committee to retain a provision that would prevent the STB from approving these controversial projects, placing regulation of solid-waste facilities back into the hands of state and local authorities who can protect local communities.
“It’s imperative that we include this provision so local communities in Croton and Middletown don’t see their quality of life threatened by the rail companies trying to construct solid-waste facilities under the radar,” said Senator Schumer. “Jurisdiction over siting solid waste facilities should rest primarily with local and state authorities because they are on the ground and are best able to judge what best for their community and region. Firms should not be able to hide behind the claim of federal preemption to avoid appropriate regulation when it comes to building and operating solid waste facilities.”
In a letter to the Joint Senate-House Conferees on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, Schumer urged the chairs and ranking members to retain a provision in the final version of the FY 2008 THUD Appropriations Act to remove the authority of the STB to have exclusive jurisdiction over the construction of solid-waste facilities on rail lines. The provision would prevent railroads from using federal preemption standards to shield themselves from state and local environmental laws regarding the movements of municipal solid waste. Currently, an existing railroad may build a support facility, including a solid waste facility, without any regulatory approval.
Under current law, railroad operations are preempted from certain state and local laws, making STB’s jurisdiction exclusive for all rail transportation and rail facilities that are part of the national rail network, including spur and ancillary track. The Schumer-backed provision would prohibit the STB from approving proposals to develop solid waste facilities, along rail lines, that currently are exempt from municipal approval. Several years ago a proposal by Chartwell International would have created a waste transfer station along a 15-mile stretch of track in Middletown. While the City was able to work out an agreement with Chartwell, the Schumer-backed provision would have provided the City with the authority to regulate construction of the facility.
The Schumer-backed provision would also prohibit the STB from approving a potential proposal by rail companies seeking to buy several solid waste facilities in Westchester County. There have been problems in the past with rail companies trying to acquire these facilities and then get use the STB permit process to handle material at the facility without obtaining permits from the local government. This is troubling because the STB has no permit application process, no site selection process, no environmental or health impact review, and no engineering design standards. Since state permits and processes are preempted, the STB process essentially creates a situation where these facilities are subject to exclusive STB jurisdiction but no actual regulation takes place.
Schumer also signed on to S.719 the “Clean Railroads Act of 2007, a free-standing bill to remove the STB’s authority to approve the construction of solid-waste facilities on rail lines. While both the free-standing bill and the provision in the appropriations bill would block the STB’s approval of a solid-waste transfer station, the appropriations provision would expire after one year unless it was renewed in the next appropriations bill, while S.719 would permanently remove the STB’s authority on solid-waste stations. Schumer is also a cosponsor of S.1889, the Railroad Safety Enhancement Act of 2007, which also includes language to strip STB of this authority.
“By eliminating STB’s jurisdiction over solid waste facilities located on rail lines, this provision will ensure that these facilities are held to state solid waste licensing and regulatory rules that normally apply to these types of facilities,” Schumer added.
In April 2007, Schumer sent a letter to the Chairman of the Surface Transportation Board calling on him to reject the New England Transrail’s application, writing, “it can only be characterized as an attempt to circumvent state and local authorities rather than taking environmental concerns into consideration.” Schumer also sent a letter to the STB expressing concern that Chartwell may plan to ignore local rules and regulations when constructing waste facilities by claiming federal preemption by STB jurisdiction