In the wake of recent decisions handed down by the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) joined local residents in applauding the rulings, while also acknowledging that additional steps lie ahead.
“My office has received a flurry of correspondence over the years from constituents who have legitimate concerns about various operations undertaken by the Grafton & Upton Railroad,” said Sen. Moore. “I am pleased that the First Circuit has found merit in the arguments put forward by Upton residents about the transloading of wood pellets, which has caused excessive and intrusive noise levels among other negative impacts.”
The primary issue considered by the Appellate Court was whether the activities at the transloading facility, including the vacuuming, screening, bagging, and palletizing of the wood pellets, constituted rail “transportation,” such that state and local regulations could be evaded.
The court ultimately determined to vacate and remand the lower decision by the Surface Transportation Board’s (STB) which was in favor of the Railroad. Judge Timothy Belcher Dyk, who delivered the opinion of the court, stated that further review was required to determine whether the operations were classified as transportation or “for another, unrelated purpose.”
“The Federal Court’s ruling is a welcome decision,” said Upton resident Diane Del Grosso, who is a leading party in the litigation. “We look forward to the STB’s reconsideration of this case and are optimistic that when they properly review the facts, they will determine that the Upton wood pellet facility is not preempted and is therefore subject to local and state regulations. We are all incredibly grateful to Senator Moore who has been so instrumental to us and remained steadfast in trying to help us find justice.”
Since issues were first raised with the Grafton & Upton Railroad, Sen. Moore has advocated on behalf of the community and has shared the frustration of many residents about the lack of local authority over railroad operations. In an open editorial published last year, Sen. Moore cited the need for federal preemption reform that would strike a balance between protecting interstate rail commerce and ensuring that the environment and local communities are not negatively impacted.
“We have long sought a resolution to this ongoing issue and I am hopeful that the STB will take swift action in favor of local residents who continue to be adversely affected,” said Moore.