April 18, 2005: NORTON CITES FEDERAL FAILURE AS BASIS FOR D.C. CSX COURT VICTORY
April 18, 2005
NORTON CITES FEDERAL FAILURE AS BASIS FOR D.C. CSX COURT VICTORY
Washington, DC—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today said that she was gratified that federal District Court had acted to protect the lives and property of District residents and federal employees by upholding D.C.’s 90-day ban on CSX freight cars carrying toxic materials near the Capitol and throughout the District and the region. In a letter to the Court, Norton outlined congressional and federal government failure to even hold hearings she requested on the potential dangers or to take any other action, notwithstanding five letters from her and other Members of Congress, which she submitted for the record.
The Congresswoman wrote in the letter, “Particularly considering inaction by the Congress and federal government, the District took the appropriate action to remedy a dangerous risk to local residents.” Norton said that a very important part of Judge Emmet Sullivan’s decision was his recognition that “Until the federal government has formulated a comprehensive response…the law preserves a limited role for states to act to protect public safety and security.” Norton noted in her letter that, “no federal statute bars the District from taking appropriate action to protect its citizens from hazardous substances. By refusing to inform local officials that federal officials have taken the appropriate action, federal officials appear to have ceded to the District the obligation to protect its citizens in taking the appropriate action at the local level.”
Norton said that she recognized that CSX will appeal the decision, but notwithstanding the final outcome, the District has done its residents and the region an important service. The Council’s action will help her in her continuing efforts to get congressional action on the national problem. “The risk here was so great that jurisdictional questions should not have kept the appropriate authorities from acting,” she said. “The District deserves credit for understanding that it is an appropriate authority and for moving when no one else would.”