- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 20, 2005

D.C. officials said yesterday that they are prepared to go to the U.S. Supreme Court with their legal fight to ban trains carrying hazardous materials through the city.

Traci Hughes, spokeswoman for the D.C. Attorney General’s Office, said they are bracing for a long, hard legal battle “because at issue is the safety of the residents of the District.”

“I think the [D.C.] Council and the mayor are committed to take this as far as we can,” said council member Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat who wrote the ban.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals on Tuesday granted an emergency motion to block the city’s ban, which was to have taken effect yesterday.

Officials for CSX Transportation, whose rail lines would be affected by the city’s law, had asked the court to block the ban until they argue the full case in court.

The judges asked the D.C. government to file written motions for implementing the ban by 4 p.m. tomorrow.

The environmental group Sierra Club is working with the city on filing the motions. Miss Hughes said a status hearing on the case is scheduled for Monday.

D.C. Deputy Attorney General George Valentine and Jim Dougherty, an attorney for the Sierra Club, have not divulged the content of the motions they plan to file tomorrow.

“We do not expect to be deviating from” what already has been filed, Mr. Dougherty said.

CSX spokesman Robert Sullivan said yesterday that company officials “understand very clearly the issues and the concerns with respect to security, and we are addressing them with maximum effort and attention in close consultation with the agencies in the federal government.”

Mayor Anthony A. Williams signed the law in February, citing studies that show a terrorist attack on a rail car containing chlorine could kill as many as 100,000 people.

CSX and the Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security sought an injunction to block the law from taking effect, arguing that the city does not have authority to ban hazardous chemicals from being transported within two miles of the U.S. Capitol.

They also said rerouting trains around the city would be costly and would interfere with interstate commerce, while refusing to disclose their safety plan to city officials.

U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan denied those arguments Monday.

Judge Sullivan ruled that Congress had given states the authority to regulate areas of railroad safety if the federal government has not taken action to address new risks, such as a terrorist threat.

The appeals court overruled his decision Tuesday.

Other cities, including Baltimore and Philadelphia, are considering similar legislation. CSX fears such action could bring certain shipments to a halt.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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