Local Regulation of Railroads: Guidance for Municipal Attorneys on Navigating the Complexities of Federal Preemption

Strategies for Exercising Local Control to Address Nuisance, Liability and Economic Issues

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A


Conducted on Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Recorded event now available


This CLE webinar will provide local government counsel with guidance on addressing the issues presented by freight and passenger railroads that run through cities. The panel will provide an overview of the federal regulatory scheme governing the railroad industry; discuss strategies for exercising local control to address safety, nuisance, liability and economic issues; and explore the challenges presented to local governments in protecting local interests in an area under predominately federal jurisdiction.

Description

A patchwork of federal agencies, including the Federal Railroad Administration, the Surface Transportation Board, the Federal Highway Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Environmental Protection Agency, regulate railroad operations, property and safety. This largely federal regulatory scheme creates challenges for counsel when local governments attempt to exercise local control over railroads to protect residents and property.

Municipal attorneys face a challenging task in understanding the unusual regulatory framework they face in addressing legal issues surrounding railroads in both transactional and litigation settings. The issues of quiet zones, new construction of rail facilities, the legal status of discontinued or abandoned rail lines, interpreting railroad easements and rights of ways, regulatory control of spurs and sidetracks, and condemnation of railroad property are just some of the complex legal and regulatory challenges railroads present for local government counsel.

Listen as our experienced panel provides local government counsel with guidance on addressing the issues presented by freight and passenger railroads that run through cities. The panel will provide an overview of the federal regulatory scheme governing the railroad industry; discuss strategies for exercising local control to address safety, nuisance, liability and economic issues; and explore the challenges presented to local government counsel in protecting local interests in an area under predominately federal jurisdiction.

Outline

  1. Overview of railroad regulatory scheme
  2. Key liability, regulatory and economic issues
  3. Local regulation of railroad operations
    1. Railroad infrastructure and facilities
    2. Crossings, quiet zones
    3. Condemnation of railroad property
    4. Franchises and rights of way
    5. Condemnation, abandonment and redevelopment opportunities
  4. Review of case law addressing preemption issues

Benefits

The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • What types of local railroad regulations are not preempted by federal law?
  • What liability factors should cities consider when deciding whether to establish quiet zones?
  • What steps should cities take to mitigate risks associated with the increase in oil-by-rail activity?

Faculty

Michael N. Conneran, Partner
Hanson Bridgett, San Francisco

Mr. Conneran represents public agencies in matters involving real estate, transportation, and environmental law. He has played an active role in several acquisitions of railroad rights-of-way on behalf of public transportation agencies, including the purchase of the commuter rail line from San Francisco to San Jose on behalf of the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board. He also worked on the purchase of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad right-of-way between Napa and Mendocino counties by a consortium of agencies. Mr. Conneran has advised public and private railroad clients with regarding to regulatory issues arising under federal and state law.

Charles A. Spitulnik, Partner
Kaplan Kirsch Rockwell, Washington, D.C.

Mr. Spitulnik represents both public and private sector clients on issues relating, in one way or another, to the rail industry. For the past 25 years, his practice has focused on representation of state and local governments in addressing issues related to the rail companies that serve their communities or to the issues that arise when those communities develop and implement plans for operation of rail transit systems, whether commuter rail, light rail or heavy rail systems. 

John D. Heffner, Of Counsel
Strasburger & Price, Washington, D.C.

Mr. Heffner’s practice is focused on private and public interests in rail transportation law. He is very knowledgeable about the formation of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) and Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) and the specialized laws related thereto.He maintains a close relationship with all major Class I railroads in the United States and Canada, major short line and regional railroad owners, Amtrak, commuter railroad authorities, and state departments of transportation, as well as a cadre of consultants and other railroad industry contacts. He has testified as an expert witness in railroad-related litigation. His clients include short line and regional railroads, railroad industry suppliers, lenders, and investors as well as state departments of transportation, passenger rail authorities, port authorities, and utility companies.


Recordings

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