Lawyers argue salt-shed appeal before Second Circuit today

By LISA SCAGLIOTTI

Lawyers for Vermont Railway Inc. and the town of Shelburne will be in court today in New York City making their arguments in the ongoing dispute regarding the railroad’s salt storage sheds built between U.S. Route 7 and the LaPlatte River.

A morning hearing is scheduled before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; each side will have 10 minutes.

The case has landed before the circuit court after a ruling last December by Senior Federal Judge William K. Sessions III in Burlington.

Sessions said a Shelburne ordinance aimed at regulating the storage, handling and distribution of hazardous materials cannot apply to salt storage facility that Vermont Railway built north of the village in 2016-17. The $5.5 million facility receives salt by railcar and the product is trucked to municipal and state highway garages in Northern Vermont.

The Shelburne Selectboard approved the new ordinance last fall after multiple attempts in federal court to block the construction and operation of the salt facility failed. Previous court rulings maintained that the local and state development review processes did not apply to the facility due to federal exemption.

Sessions subsequently stopped the ordinance with an injunction, saying that the Shelburne regulation discriminates against the railway.

The matter has captured much attention in the Shelburne community in the past two years and has been the subject of significant expense to the town government.

Prior to the appeal, the town had spent close to $500,000 in legal fees associated with the case, according to town officials.

The appeal received $20,000 in funding from the Vermont Natural Resources Council, an environmental conservation nonprofit opposed to the salt-shed development. Lawyers for the town agreed to cap their fees in the appeal to that amount although their expenses for the appeal exceeded $56,000 in September, town officials said. The town’s attorney Claudine Safar from the law firm Monaghan Safar and Ducham will represent Shelburne today. Vermont Railway is represented by lawyers from Downs Rachlin Martin.

The appeals court posts recordings of hearings on its website online at ca2.uscourts.gov.

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