Grafton & Upton Railroad case sent back to state court

GGGUGrafton’s case against the Grafton & Upton Railroad was sent back to Worcester Superior Court by a federal judge who questioned whether the railroad had complete preemption from local regulations and suggested the case should ultimately be brought before the Surface Transportation Board.

“The Town is gratified that the Court has agreed with its postion that this case should have been referred to the STB by the state court judge,” Town Administrator Timothy McInerney said in a news release issued by the town this morning. “Unfortunately, due to the railroad’s continual demand that the case was properly removed, the Town had to undertake an expedited federal trial before it was remanded to the Superior Court. The Town will further review the decision in the coming days to determine what its next step will be.”

The 26-page ruling was handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman late Friday. The entire thing is fascinating reading (if you enjoy legal documents, that is) and I’m attaching it here for your enjoyment. GRAFTON MEMORANDUM AND ORDER 513

What does this mean for the town? This still doesn’t eliminate the Grafton & Upton Railroad’s plan to create a propane transloading operation on North Grafton property owned by the railroad. This would bring in four 120-foot long 80,000-gallon tanks for storage. It does give the town a chance to argue the railroad is violating the town’s zoning bylaws by siting an industrial operation in a residential zone.

“While the Grafton & Upton Railroad is disappointed that the federal court’s ruling postpones to another day a decision that is vitally important to both parties, the decision supports the Railroad’s position that it will ultimately prevail because it has satisfied the requirements for federal preemption of the town’s zoning by law,” Grafton & Upton Railroad spokesman Doug Pizzi said in a news release.
Not only did the Court find that the Railroad did in fact inform the town and the state fire marshal of its potential plans for a propane transloading facility more than a year before the town claimed it knew of those plans, but the court also noted that “during trial and through extensive briefs . . . the G&U satisfied the five-step ordinary preemption analysis” as set forth in the most recent federal court decision on this issue.

“Despite finding that the Railroad satisfied the elements of preemption, the court’s ruling will require that both the Town and the Railroad re-litigate these issues at substantial expense to both parties,” he added. “While the Railroad will consider all of its legal options, it remains committed to conducting all operations at the highest level of safety and to providing jobs and increased economic activity to the entire rail corridor.”

More linkage!

  • Rich Price had the story first at The Grafton Villager yesterday, and has some more info here and here.
  • The T&G has a sweet story and photo slideshow about a 4-year-old fighting cancer who got to take a ride on the Grafton & Upton Railroad yesterday. My favorite part is the description of engineer Kevin Gallagher as “an imposing man with a long goatee and tattoos.” Possibly, I’ve seen Kevin play Santa Claus one too many times.



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