SWANA States Position on STB Exemption of Rail Facilities

Date: November 27, 2007

Source: Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA)

SWANA Issues Position on STB Proposed Exemption

International Board of Directors Takes Stand on STB's Decision

The International Board of Directors of the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) approved the following statement in support of proposed federal legislation that would prohibit the exemption of rail-based solid waste transfer activities from state and local permits.

"While SWANA favors smooth operation of this country's rail system - indeed, a considerable volume of municipal solid waste is safely and efficiently carried to disposal sites by rail - SWANA supports the traditional state and local responsibilities for solid waste management facilities can and should be carried out, and SWANA opposes any exception based on the proximity of the waste handling site to railroad lines.

The STB preemption as applied to trackside solid waste facilities removes critical controls that are essential to mitigating environmental degradation and public health and safety hazards. State and local regulations are not designed to impede the transportation of waste, but rather ensure that these operations are conducted in a manner that will protect the environment and public health and safety in all communities where they are located. For these reasons, SWANA supports measures to end the STB's authority to exempt railroad-related solid waste facilities."

Surface Transportation Board (STB) has proposed exempting rail-based solid waste transfer activities from state and local permits. The STB has ruled that certain waste transloading activities that take place on or near railroad rights-of-way constitute "transportation by rail carrier," and are therefore exempt from state laws governing solid waste management.

SWANA is part of a coalition of solid waste and recycling organizations that supports legislation introduced by Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) -- the Clean Railroads Act of 2007 (S.719) -- to close the federal loophole and allow states to regulate solid waste facilities on rail property for environmental, health, and safety reasons. This bill has been incorporated into the comprehensive railroad safety bill that the Senate is poised to act on. A companion bill in the House, introduced by Rep. Pallone (D-NJ), H.R. 1248 - has also been added to the House version of the railroad safety bill, which passed the full House earlier this fall.
Congress created the STB in 1995, in an effort to create uniformity and consistency in the regulation of rail transportation. The STB has exclusive jurisdiction over railroad operations, and with that, the power to exempt virtually any activity deemed "transportation by rail carrier" from state and local regulation.


For over 40 years, SWANA, The Solid Waste Association of North America, has been the leading professional association in the solid waste management field. SWANA's mission is "to advance the practice of environmentally and economically sound management of municipal solid waste." SWANA serves over 7,500 members and thousands more industry professionals with technical conferences, certifications, publications and a large offering of technical training courses.

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