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County of Dutchess v. CSX Transportation

September 10, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Seibel, J.


Before the Court is Defendant CSX Transportation, Inc.'s ("CSX") Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) on the ground that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this case. (Doc. 15.) Plaintiff County of Dutchess ("County") filed a Petition in Dutchess County Supreme Court on May 20, 2009, seeking condemnation of approximately five acres of a railroad right-of-way in Poughkeepsie, New York, owned by CSX (the "Property"). CSX removed the case to this Court on June 18, 2009. (Doc. 1.)

The Court assumes the Parties' familiarity with the relevant factual and procedural background of this case, both before this Court and before the Surface Transportation Board ("STB").*fn1 In brief, on June 29, 2004, CSX filed a petition with the STB, seeking, pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 10502, an exemption from the prior approval requirements set forth in 49 U.S.C. § 10903 in order to discontinue service over and abandon the Property and remove it from the national rail system.*fn2 (Decl. of Ronald L. Wozniak in Opp'n to Mot. to Dismiss ("Wozniak

Decl.") ¶ 7, Ex. C; Decl. of Kim Rice Bongiovanni in Supp. of CSX's Not. of Removal ("Bongiovanni Decl.") Ex. 1.) .) On July 7, 2004, the County filed a request with the STB for the issuance of a Notice of Interim Trail Use ("NITU") and for a public use condition, which, if granted, would maintain the Property's inclusion in the national rail system and preserve the Property for future trail (and, theoretically, rail) use. (Wozniak Decl. ¶ 8, Ex. D.)

On October 15, 2004, the STB issued a decision, granting CSX's request for an exemption, subject to trail use, public use, and environmental and other conditions. (Bongiovanni Decl. Ex. 1.) Further, the STB gave CSX and the County a time limit within which to negotiate the NITU and acquisition of the property for public use -- a limit that was extended upon the Parties' request numerous times, most recently to September 19, 2009. (Wozniak Decl. Ex. F; Decl. of William P. Byrne in Supp. of CSX's Mot. to Dismiss ("Byrne Decl.") Exs. 1, 2.) On March 23, 2009, the STB also extended to November 18, 2009, the deadline for CSX to file a notice of consummation of abandonment of the Property. (Wozniak Decl. Ex. F.) Frustrated with the pace of the negotiations, the County initiated the instant condemnation proceeding, seeking a fee simple absolute interest in the Property for use as part of the Dutchess Rail Trail, a hiking and cycling trail, which is set to be unveiled in October of this year. (Hr'g Tr., July 1, 2009, 4 ("We spent numerous days and years trying to negotiate with CSX to no avail. Finally, when we recognize[d] . . . the urgency of it by October of this year for the proceedings that will take place at the Poughkeepsie Bridge, we had to somehow acquire this property.").)

Pursuant to the ICCTA, Congress has entrusted the STB with the plenary and exclusive authority to determine the fate of rail property through abandonment proceedings. See 49 U.S.C. §§ 10101 et seq. "The exclusive and plenary nature of the [STB's] authority to rule on carriers' decisions to abandon lines is critical to the congressional scheme, which contemplates comprehensive administrative regulation of interstate commerce." Chi. & N. W. Transp. Co. v. Kalo Brick & Tile Co., 450 U.S. 311, 319 (1981). The ICCTA provides that:

[t]he jurisdiction of the [STB] over . . . transportation by rail carriers [and] . . . the construction, acquisition, operation, abandonment, or discontinuance of spur, industrial, team, switching, or side tracks, or facilities, even if the tracks are located, or intended to be located, entirely in one State, is exclusive[, and] . . . the remedies provided under this part . . . with respect to regulation of rail transportation are exclusive and preempt the remedies provided under Federal or State law.

49 U.S.C. § 10501(b).

Once the STB approves an abandonment application or, as here, grants an exemption, it "retains jurisdiction over the abandoned line until the railroad fulfills any conditions imposed in the STB abandonment decision and files a notice of consummation with the STB." Wilson v. Norfolk S. Ry. Co., No. 08-CV-395, 2009 WL 189397, at *4 (W.D.N.C. Jan. 26, 2009). Once consummated, "[a]bandonment frees subservient landowners to exercise reversionary rights in, and local governments to condemn, the railroad's right-of-way." City of S. Bend v. Surface Transp. Bd., 566 F.3d 1166, 1168 (D.C. Cir. 2009).

In moving to dismiss this action pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), CSX argues that the County's condemnation proceeding is preempted by the ICCTA and that the STB has exclusive jurisdiction over the fate of the Property while the abandonment proceedings are pending. Therefore, according to CSX, the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the County's condemnation proceeding and must dismiss the case. According to the County, which, as Plaintiff, "has the burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction," see Durant, Nichols, Houston, Hodgson, & Cortese-Costa, P.C. v. Dupont, 565 F.3d 56, 64 (2d Cir. 2009), the STB has no jurisdiction over the Property, and therefore this Court does, because (1) the track at issue is an industrial or spur track over which, pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 10906, the Board has no authority; and (2) CSX has already abandoned the Property, divesting the STB of jurisdiction (Pl.'s Mem. of Law in Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss ("Pl.'s Opp'n") 4). The Court, having reviewed the Parties' respective submissions and the relevant statutory and case law, finds that Plaintiff's condemnation proceeding is preempted by the ICCTA; that, therefore, the STB has exclusive jurisdiction over the fate of the Property; and that, as a result, the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this matter and must dismiss this case.

Federal law preempts state law when:

(1) the preemptive intent is explicitly stated in a federal statute's language or implicitly contained in its structure and purpose; (2) state law actually conflicts with federal law; or (3) federal law so thoroughly occupies a legislative field as to make reasonable the inference that Congress left no room for the States to supplement it.

Green Mt. R.R. Corp. v. Vermont, 404 F.3d 638, 641 (2d Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks and brackets omitted). "Express preemption arises when a federal statute expressly directs that state law be ousted." Island Park, LLC v. CSX Transp., 559 F.3d 96, 101 (2d Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). Congress' preemptive intent is clearly set forth in the ICCTA's express preemption clause. See 49 U.S.C. § 10501(b). That being said, however, "whether a certain state action is preempted requires a fact-specific inquiry." Buffalo S. R.R. v. Vill. of Croton-On-Hudson, 434 F. Supp. 2d 241, 249 (S.D.N.Y. 2006). The ICCTA "preempts all state laws that may reasonably be said to have the effect of managing or governing rail transportation, while permitting the continued application of laws having a more remote or incidental effect on rail transportation." Island Park, 559 F.3d at 102 (internal quotation marks omitted).

It is clear that the instant condemnation proceeding is preempted by the ICCTA and its broad grant of exclusive jurisdiction to the STB. See Buffalo S. R.R., 434 F. Supp. 2d at 249 ("no question that the Village's intended exercise of its eminent domain power [to obtain fee simple interest in railroad property] exceeds what is permitted under the ICCTA"); Wis. Cent. Ltd. v. City of Marshfield, 160 F. Supp. 2d 1009, 1013-14 (W.D. Wis. 2000) (state condemnation proceeding preempted by ICCTA because "[t]he City is impermissibly attempting to subject to state law property that Congress specifically put out of reach"). The STB is actually exercising its exclusive jurisdiction over railroad abandonment proceedings with regard to the Property at issue here, through, among other things, the issuance of a NITU and the imposition of conditions on CSX's ability to abandon the Property. The condemnation proceeding -- which, if ...

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