Legal battle with Vermont Railway comes at high cost and what return?

To the Editor:

The Town has continued to fight the legal battle against Vermont Railway unsuccessfully to the tune of $488,688 plus whatever the next appeal to the Second Circuit in New York will cost us.

Will it be capped at $20k, or $56,425, or more? We will have to wait for the final legal invoices to be processed to truly know what the poorly written and completely unnecessary Hazardous Material Ordinance ultimately cost the taxpayers.

The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have very robust regulatory programs in place to protect both human health as well as the environment with respect to bulk storage of hazardous substances.

I wish the Selectboard would have left these complicated regulations to the state and federal professionals to handle instead of complicating matters locally with their discriminatory bias against Vermont Railway. They rushed the ordinance through with incomplete due diligence in an attempt to stop the operation of the railway’s intermodal facility in its tracks (pun intended). I sense that was Senior Federal Judge William K. Sessions III’s legal opinion, too.

Please ask the Selectboard why they feel sodium chloride should be regulated as a hazardous material. Our town, as well as thousands of other municipalities, and even the state of Vermont relies on sodium chloride to keep our roadways safe all winter. We use it in our driveways and on walkways. If you have a drilled well in the Champlain Valley, you most likely use sodium chloride in your water softener. Shelburne is the only town in Vermont to regulate sodium chloride as a hazardous substance.

A fraction of these legal costs could have greatly improved our own Town’s Highway Department facility on Turtle Lane where we store our sodium chloride. Convenient, coincidental, or crooked that the ordinance, based on volume, allows the town to store sodium chloride right next to McCabe Brook and the LaPlatte River Natural Area, which is now designated a Class I wetland in accordance with Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.

Our former town manager, the town’s attorney, the attorney’s environmental consultants, and members of the Selectboard were adamant that this ordinance would protect us and the LaPlatte River Natural Area.

So I ask this: When will we see improvements at the Turtle Lane facility? I’d much rather my tax dollars be spent protecting our natural resources versus being spent on a perpetual and very expensive losing legal battle against Vermont Railway.

Thomas Murphy

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