(CN) – Federal law trumps California regulations on emissions from idling trains, the 9th Circuit ruled in a win for the railroad industry, which argued that the state encroached on the federal government’s turf in passing stricter pollution rules.
The Association of American Railroads, along with the BNSF and Union Pacific lines, challenged state rules issued in 2005 and 2006 by the South Coast Air Quality Management District meant to limit air pollution from standing trains.
In addition to limiting emissions, the rules required rail companies to provide specific reports and imposed penalties if they violated the rules.
The railroad industry argued that the federal Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA) preempts the state regulations.
The three-judge panel in San Francisco agreed, upholding a lower court’s injunction barring enforcement of the state regulations.
Federal law typically doesn’t preempt state laws unless they “unreasonably interfere” with interstate commerce.
“The District’s rules plainly cannot meet the test,” Graber wrote, because they attempt to regulate rail transport, which is used to a great extent in interstate commerce and thus governed by federal law.
“The rules apply exclusively and directly to railroad activity, requiring the railroads to reduce emissions and to provide, under threat of penalties, specific reports on its emissions and inventories,” Graber wrote.
“Because ICCTA ‘preempts all state laws that may reasonably be said to have the effect of managing or governing rail transportation,’ ICCTA preempts the District’s rules here.”