On the November ballot in Spokane is an initiative that would regulate rail traffic through the city, imposing fines on trains carrying oil or coal. The Spokesman-Review editorial board considers the measure “well meaning, but misguided” and urges a no vote.
Two crucial questions for Spokane voters are: Should individual cities impose restrictions on rail transport, and what would it mean for interstate commerce if they could? A patchwork of rules and regulations across the country would throttle the economy. Critics of Prop. 2 make a compelling case that it runs afoul of the Interstate Commerce Act, and there is a long list of court cases that demonstrate the supremacy of federal law over local ordinances…
Ultimately this is a federal matter, so voters should turn down Prop. 2.
Mayor David Condon, who has contributed his voice to the campaign against the proposal, said although he understands the concerns of citizens about safety, imposing fines ignored federal actions to make the shipments less prone to derailment as well as efforts to improve the emergency response…
The initiative’s opponents, including Condon, cite legal opinions from the city’s hearing examiner, Brian McGinn, and the City Council’s policy adviser, Brian McClatchey, that the measure would have a slim chance of surviving a legal challenge.
Both men identified different sections of federal law to conclude that an ordinance passed at the local level would be trumped by rulemakers at the national level, opening the city to potential litigation and courtroom costs if the commodities, railroad or someone else filed a lawsuit to block its enforcement.
If the measure were to pass next month, the legal challenges are inevitable.