Hearing dates set in Vermont Railway federal court case

The Town of Shelburne and Vermont Railway Inc. will be back in court at the start of November to argue the question of whether a new town ordinance applies to the railroad’s operations in Shelburne.

The hearing dates have been set for Nov. 1 and 2 in U.S. District Court in Burlington with Judge William K. Sessions III, according to the court calendar. Sessions last week issued an order preventing the town from implementing a new ordinance passed in August to regulate the handling, storage, and distribution of hazardous materials.

The ordinance, which was supposed to go into effect this week, is on hold until the court can rule on its implications for the railroad and its road-salt storage and distribution facility that sits full of salt to treat the region’s roads this winter.

Shelburne’s town government has fought the location and operation of the salt facility for more than a year, with federal court rulings saying that the railroad does not need to submit to local review.

The town Selectboard in August adopted the new ordinance governing the handling of a variety of hazardous materials by the railroad and many other businesses. It has come under fire from fuel dealers, car dealers, commercial operations along Lake Champlain, and others who say it imposes excessive restrictions on their companies.

The railroad maintains that, as with the question of permitting review, its Shelburne facility should not be subject to the new ordinance given federal regulations that already oversee its operations.

If the town’s ordinance prevailed, the railroad’s salt facility would be in violation and would likely need to close, lawyers for the railroad argued recently, and the court agreed.

Both sides will have two days of court time to make their cases to Sessions.

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