The Grafton Upton Railroad has existed in Upton since the 1870’s providing transportation of freight, and for a while passangers. The tracks, which run through Upton, were predominately dormant throughout the 1990’s. Jon Delli Priscoli purchased the line in 2oo8 and has since worked to restore the line to its orginal status.
Many residents enjoy hearing the train whistle blow through town; others are not so thrilled.
Seven Upton residents (Upton Petitioners) have concerns over operations in the Upton yard. They believe a Wood Pellet Transloading Facility located in the yard does not fall under “transloading by rail” but instead is a manufacturing operation, which should operate in accordance with local bylaws. The residents petitioned the Surface and Transportation Board (STB) for clarification on the activities in question.
In December of 2014, the STB found the operation of transferring wood pellets from rail cars to trucks at the Upton yard fell within “transportation by rail” and therefore, were preempted from local zoning and other regulations. The Upton Petitioners appealed that ruling to the US First Circuit Court of Appeals who vacated and remanded the December 2014 STB Declaratory Order sending the matter back to the STB to review the facts.
On November 30, 2015 the STB and G&U requested the Appelate Court to rehear the matter. Spokesperson for the G&U Doug Pizzi said, “The STB did in fact use the correct standard to rule the pellet bagging operation pre-empted from local control as transportation by rail carrier. The cases cited show a clear precedent for this position and the G&U hopes that the court sees fit to review the matter.”
Upton Petitioner Diana DelGrosso disagreed with the request, “The Federal Court of Appeals made it clear that the Surface Transportation Board (STB) improperly analyzed the Upton case involving the wood pellet packaging plant and that the STB’s prior reasoning was questionable as well as defective. I am puzzled as to why the STB wants a re-hearing before the same court and quite fascinated as to why the STB won’t simply accept the court’s instruction to go back and properly review the facts. I also find it curious that the railroad filed as an Intervenor the same exact day the STB filed their re-hearing request, suggesting a coordinated effort between the two parties. The STB and railroad now appear to be moving in lockstep which is troubling given the STB’s supposed impartial role in this matter,” she said.
Yesterday the Appellate Court denied the rehearing request.
Today Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) joined with Upton residents in praising the recent order by the Appellate Court to deny a rehearing request submitted by the Surface Transportation Board and the Grafton & Upton Railroad. “Yesterday’s Appellate Court decision to deny a rehearing has reaffirmed the Court’s position that activities at the transloading facility do not constitute transportation,” said Sen. Moore. “The concerns of families who have been adversely affected by these operations have been validated under the law. I am hopeful that subsequent decisions by the STB and local officials will enforce the Court’s ruling and provide some relief to those negatively impacted.”