The second avenue the Village is pursuing in Washington, D.C. is through the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB).
The reason why Croton is concerned about what is happening in Washington is, as stated in Part 1 of this article:
1. What is the STB? With the establishment in 1995 of the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to consolidate interstate and intrastate rail transport under one federal agency, waste haulers have developed a new tactic in an attempt to free themselves from local regulations. Once a waste transfer site is approved by the STB as part of a railroad, this federal preemption may exempt the site from meeting the state and local environmental review and permitting conditions that have been long established by the EPA and Congress as a local policy domain. The use of this loophole has expanded rapidly in recent years in the Northeast and the early results are chilling.
The STB is a three member board, www.stb.dot.gov, formed as a result of the Interstate Commerce Termination Act of 1995. The STB’s purpose is to enact policy on interstate trucking and railroads. The STB does not hold public hearings although input from interested parties is received and posted by them. They meet once a month and publish an agenda but also make decisions in the interim without notice to the public.
2. What is the Village doing at the STB? Currently the Village is addressing two issues with the STB – both primarily related to Buffalo Southern Railroad (BSOR) which has a current application to the STB..
First, as a result of a preliminary injunction decision by federal judge Colleen McMahon, and at her recommendation, the Village has filed a complaint with the STB. The complaint states the Village’s position that BSOR, a class 3 common carrier that operates in western New York, cannot simply start operating in Croton – 300 miles away from its primary location – without permission from the STB.
Second, BSOR, a sublessee at 1A Croton Point Avenue property owned by Greentree Realty LLC, filed a Notice of Exemption at the STB to transfer waste at the site. If BSOR is successful in receiving this STB exemption, the potential for an unregulated waste handling operation in Croton is a real possibility. The Village is actively fighting this by filing briefs with the STB to call attention to the need for a full administrative review of the BSOR application to operate in Croton.
3. What are the STB’s likely decision dates? Even if Croton is successful, a full review of BSOR’s application by the STB may only delay a ruling favorable to BSOR, pursuant to BSOR submitting further information the STB may request. This ‘we need more information” process is quite common at the STB. On the other hand, the STB has moved rather quickly on other applications of late.
The Village does not know when the STB may choose to act on the matters in front of them that relate to Croton. It could be at any time as there are no specified time-frames or clocks that apply. A decision from the STB that is unfavorable to Croton could leave us with an unregulated waste transfer situation as we fear.
4. Should the Village continue the fight at the STB and in Congress? – The answer is a resounding YES. Yet, any reform in Congress to close the STB/waste station loophole may be years away. And the STB’s own decisions may rule in favor of BSOR long before then.
5. Should the Village pursue other alternatives that might preclude the worst-case result of an unregulated waste site in our midst? Again, the answer is YES. If we do nothing beyond the legal work at the STB and in Congress, we leave Croton at the mercy of decisions to be made in Washington into which we have scant input and over which very little control.
6. Can we really rely on Washington to help us in time? No. Therefore, we should explore alternatives that give the Village local control and oversight to safeguard local health, safety and welfare.
-- Trustee Ann Gallelli