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Waste Industry Looks to Congress to Close Rail Loophole

Date: October 8, 2007

Source: News Room

Under the guidance of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), the waste industry awaits Congressional lawmakers to move legislation that will close a loophole in federal transportation law that allows rail waste operations to avoid environmental requirements that apply to everyone else. His measure passed the Senate last month but some fear that it does not go far enough, especially with regard to the processing of construction and demolition debris stored on rail-based waste sites. There is further concern that facilities might still win particular exemptions from state and local environmental regulations. The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee is expected to back a strict companion version of Lautenberg's original bill.

Most of the facilities at issue are in the Northeast and collect C&D debris from older buildings that contain high value materials but also contain toxic contaminants, including arsenic, asbestos, mercury and PCBs. Most facilities are subject to strict permitting requirements and rigorous environmental oversight. But companies owning rail-based sites have claimed exemption from these laws under language in the federal Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA).

That 1995 law deregulated much of the shipping industry by abolishing the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). Some remaining functions of the ICC transferred to the Surface Transportation Board (STB), which is part of the Department of Transportation. Conflicting court and administrative rulings have not clarified which operations are exempt from waste handling requirements under the ICCTA.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg: lautenberg.senate.gov/.

H.R. 1248: Clean Railroads Act of 2007: thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c110:H.R.1248:

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