Recently, I have listened to the links to the last two Shelburne Select board meetings regarding the Vermont Rail System’s proposed facility.
I understand how the preemption issue complicates the issue of this rail project, but while Vermont Rail had its success with preemption of Act 250 back in 2005, my understanding is that if an apparent conflict exists between the federal railroad statute (ICCTA) and other federal laws, then the laws are to be “harmonized” to give effect to both.
Given this “harmony” approach, I trust that the Agency of Natural resources (ANR) and our town would carefully analyze this rail project for exceptions to the general preemption rule based on the rail project’s particular facts. In particular, ICCTA is not intended to interfere with the role of state and local agencies in implementing federal environmental statutes such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act. I would assume that this is equally true for federal and state laws which implement general standards for road and highway safety and the preservation of historic structures and downtown areas.
A final issue, which I hope ANR and our town will pursue, is whether the Vermont Rail project falls under the exception to preemption for a solid waste rail transfer project. This exception was added after the 2005 Act 250 preemption decision. Has Vermont Rail provided sufficient information to know whether this exception to preemption applies?
President George W. Bush signed into law that the Railroad Safety Enhancement Act of 2008. The act amends the ICCTA so that rail transfer facilities are now subject to all applicable Federal and state requirements that include the prevention and abatement of pollution, the protection and restoration of the environment and the protection of public health and safety including laws governing solid waste, to the same extent as required for any similar solid waste management facility. The law places a much greater degree of control over siting and operation of these facilities in the hands of the town of Shelburne and the state of Vermont. We are entitled to make reasonable inquiry of this Vermont Rail System project on a 32-acre parcel in the middle of our Shelburne village.
Crea Lintilhac, Shelburne