submitted by Senator Michael O. Moore
Recently, Jon Delli Priscoli of the Grafton & Upton Railroad issued a rebuttal to an op-ed I had written stating that the federal railroad preemption laws needed to be reformed. Mr. Delli Priscoli attempts to clarify the actions taken by the Grafton and Upton Railroad and misrepresented my position in the op-ed pertaining to my stance on issues such as commerce and railroads.
After reading his op-ed, I pondered how someone could look at my efforts and interpret them as anti-commerce and railroad. My voting record and the initiatives that I have supported speak for themselves. They depict a fair and balanced approach of supporting job creation, economic growth, controlling and reducing healthcare costs, investing in alternative fuels, while protecting our public health, safety and environment. I am not and have never been opposed to commerce, growing our economy or supporting businesses. However, I am opposed to an approach of expanding these opportunities in a manner that could disrupt neighborhoods, put in jeopardy public water supplies, schools and the general welfare of our environment and public safety.
During my time in the Senate I have chaired the Committee on Community Development and Small Business, I am currently a member of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development and the Joint Committee on Transportation, and I am a member of the Biotech Caucus and the Manufacturing Caucus. During these past six years, I have supported businesses and led the Senate to pass initiatives lowering the cost and burden on businesses, ensuring Massachusetts remains a great place to live and work. Contrary to the claims brought forth by Mr. Delli Priscoli, I understand the positive impact the railroad industry has had in our past and the economic impact it will have for the future of the Second Worcester District. In fact, Mr. Delli Priscoli frequently likes to demonstrate my support by using a photo of myself on a tour of his trains.
I am not advocating for the federal government to transfer all railway authority to local and state control. I believe railroads, like many businesses, should be given some autonomy to thrive and grow without fear of unwarranted obstacles. However, there needs to be a clear and fair balance between the railroads operating without unnecessary burdens and local and state governments having the ability to protect the safety of citizens, the environment and the devaluing of property.
Additionally, I would like to provide some background and clarification to Mr. Delli Priscoli’s mention of the Interstate Commerce Termination Act of 1995. During the 1970s and 1980s, the federal government went through a period of reform and reorganization. With a growing budget, staff and the belief that the agencies authority was too broad, Congress and the White House began to reform the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) and began transferring many of the agencies deregulated authority to the Department of Transportation. The final step of reforming transportation and the ICC was completed by the passing and signing of the 1995 act. The bill abolished the ICC. However, despite the claims made by the Grafton and Upton Railroad, the act did not deregulate the railroad industry; but instead, Congress stood against the wishes of President Clinton to do just that and created the ICC’s successor, the Surface Transportation Board (STB). The Surface Transportation Board, an entity of the US Department of Transportation, was given the principal responsibilities to regulate mergers, consolidations and trackage rights. The STB serves an important role to ensure the vitality of our railways, however, in recent years; the Board has come under criticisms from both local and state governments for appearing one-sided.
It is important that I clarify several points brought to light by Mr. Delli Priscoli. He was correct in his assessment of the existence of railways throughout my district. However, he fails to acknowledge, when neighborhoods in Worcester had their safety and well-being jeopardized, I led the Worcester Delegation in advocating for these neighborhoods, which resulted in mediation funding and a mutually beneficial existence between the railroad industry and the City of Worcester. I was actively involved in helping residents to address late night noise complaints with CSX.
Secondly, I have been a supporter and advocate of the Knight’s Airport Limousine Service propane-powered fleet, which are more cost effective and environmentally friendly. However, Knight’s Airport Limousine Service did not hide behind an outdated federal law in efforts to circumvent local and state regulation. During the process, Knight’s was open and honest with local and state agencies, such as the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, allowing complete overview and insight and agreed to follow the regulations set forth by local and state government to ensure the safety of residents.
As stated in my previous op-ed, I support the railroad industry and believe it is an important partner in our economy. Federal preemption laws must be reformed, not to add greater burden, but to strike a balance between protecting interstate commerce via railways and the protection of our environment and citizens from being adversely affected, ensuring the process is fair for all.