Taking It to Court

A NEW JERSEY RAILROAD company's rail-yard waste sites have prompted a lawsuit. The N.Y./N.J. Baykeeper and Hackensack Riverkeeper, Keyport, N.J., has filed a lawsuit against New York Susquehanna and Western Railway Corp. The watchdog group claims the railroad is operating five rail-yard transfer stations in violation of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which prohibits open-air dumping.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey, seeks to shut down the waste facilities, which, per a federal loophole, are not subject to state and local regulations. Nevertheless, in August, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection issued a $2.5 million fine against the railroad for the facilities, but a U.S. District Court judge in Newark, N.J., recently blocked the state from collecting the fines. Judge Katherine Hayden said that she will not enforce the fines because the railroad has voluntarily cleaned up part of its operations and has pledged to comply with state regulations by December.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of federal legislation introduced in Congress to close the regulatory loophole that allows railroads to operate waste management facilities that do not have to answer to state and local laws governing waste handling. The bill, S-1607, has been sent to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

The bill would allow state and local governments to oversee rail yard waste facilities. To promote the efficient interstate operation of railroads, federal law currently exempts rail yards from state and local regulations.