Court of Appeals overturns state’s locomotive idling law

Norfolk Southern photo

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied an appeal by the State of Delaware to stop the “unnecessary idling” of diesel locomotives.

The General Assembly passed legislation that restricted the idling in residential areas.

The railroad argued that the idling is necessary to maintain air linesused in the braking system.

The issue came up during a boom in crude oil shipments from Canada and North Dakota to the Delaware City Refining Co., owned by PBF Energy. The number of such shipments has been sharply reduced due to changing markets.


The number of such shipment has since been sharply reduced as the refinery gets more of its oil via tankers coming up the Delaware River.

The number of such shipments has since been sharply reduced The refinery gets more of its oil via tankers coming up the Delaware River.

However, conditions could change and legislation calling for changes in the Coastal Zone Act could bring more ethanol tank cars if the refinery becomes a water shipping point for the fuel additive

Courts have generally given railroads wide latitude in operating trains at all hours.

While an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is a possibility, Delaware State Senate President Pro Tem David McBride, D-Hawks Nest, said the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia probably marks the end of the line.

“I’m disappointed, but not surprised by this,” McBride said Friday. “We know that, historically, the courts have supported the federal government’s control of railroads. We had hoped our narrowly crafted law could provide some relief, but the courts didn’t see it that way. We’ll look at our options, but realistically, I think the appeals court has had the final say in this fight.”

McBride had sponsored the bill after complaints from neighbors about noise and fumes.

McBride said he will press to find an answer for residents.

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