Partner Michael Mills was quoted in the San Francisco Daily Journal in an article titled “Railroads say new state law oversteps authority.” The article discusses a new California law in that sets new requirements for oil spill preparedness for railroads. Several railroads and an industry group have filed a lawsuit arguing that the law requires more of the railroads than already required by federal law and should be blocked.
The new law requires railroads to prepare detailed response plans for oil spills for inland waterways as well as coastal waters and to demonstrate their ability to pay for the cleanup of a serious oil spill into a river. The law is California’s response to increased rail traffic to refining facilities in the state resulting from the increase in oil production from fracking elsewhere in the U.S. and from tar sands extraction in Alberta, Canada.
In their lawsuit, the railroads argue that oil spills are already regulated by federal laws such as the Federal Railroad Safety Act, which preempt state law and allow for consistent requirements for businesses such as railroads that move goods from state to state.
Mills said that the court will need to compare the laws side-by-side and decide which one is “the most direct and controlling.” He predicted that because the interstate nature of the railroad industry tends to shield it from many types of local regulations, the preemption argument likely will prevail. "The railroads have enjoyed somewhat the upper hand because of the federal laws that exclusively regulate them," he said.
Read “Railroads say new state law oversteps authority,” published January 15, 2015. (Subscription required.)