Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) and Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Ranking Member Rick Crawford (R-AR) today signaled strong opposition to the potential application of a patchwork of pollutant discharge permitting requirements in rail transportation of coal and other bulk commodities over river crossings.
This issue arose from a 2016 federal court case that left open the question of whether freight railroads carrying coal or petroleum coke across the country need to obtain multiple state and federal pollution permits in the event that trace amounts of those materials could drift out of rail cars and into a body of water.
“This is a textbook case of regulatory overreach. It makes absolutely no sense to now start applying pollution and permitting requirements to railroads because trace amounts of a commodity may fall from a rail car as it passes over a river,” said Graves. “This court case isn’t about protecting our waters at all – it’s about whether a reasonable regulatory framework for interstate commerce is going to be hijacked by a radical agenda to eliminate coal and other fossil fuels at all costs.”
“Utilizing the Clean Water Act to stifle industry with no environmental benefit is not good governance,” said Crawford. “Energy, agriculture, and other industries that rely on railroads to move bulk commodities should not be subjected to ridiculous applications of the law.”
Graves and Crawford wrote to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) in support of Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995 (ICCTA) preemption of the Clean Water Act when it comes to the transportation of coal and other bulk commodities by rail. The ICCTA is the law that regulates interstate commerce by rail. The STB is currently taking comments on a petition submitted by the Association of American Railroads requesting the STB t address the relationship between the two statutes.