Golden Gate University Law Review


Lisa Braly


In City of Auburn v. U.S. Government; the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the plain language of the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (lCCTA) preempts state and local permitting laws regarding railroad operations. The court reasoned that since the ICCTA gave the Surface Transportation Board (Board), a federal agency, exclusive jurisdiction over certain railroad matters, railroad companies were required to follow only federal permitting laws, not those of a state or city. Thus, Burlington Northern Railroad is not subject to the environmental permitting laws of the city of Auburn. The court also held that the Board did not abuse its discretion in approving Burlington's proposal to reacquire the Stampede Pass railroad line without conducting a full Environmental Impact Statement. The court determined that the Board's sixty-page environmental assessment, constituted a "thorough, independent investigation of the environmental consequences" of reopening Stampede Pass. Thus, the investigation was sufficient to satisfy the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Consequently, the Board's decision not to conduct an EIS was neither arbitrary nor capricious and was therefore upheld.