Re: And the beat goes on and on about the Yreka Western
Author: Jeff Moore
Date: 03-16-2012 - 21:44
"Okay, for those of us who aren't adept at reading between the lines and aren't fluent in legal doubletalk, what does all this mean...?"
As with anything else in which the U.S. Government has a regulatory interest...there are two sets of rules at play. Congress has the power to make laws, which they do, at least sometimes...those laws are then catalogued in the United States Code (U.S.C.). However, the Executive branch then decides how those laws are going to be implemented and enforced, and they do so through publishing regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Different presidential administrations can and do have widely varying opinions of what the laws passed by Congress actually mean...which is why you can have wildly differing regulations governing the same subject from one administration to the next with no corresponding Congressional action in between.
In this case, the dispute is over the interpretation of the portion of the CFRs governing discontinuance of common carrier service obligations and/or abandonment of associated rail lines. The applicable regulations state that, once the Surface Transportation Board rules that a line can be abandoned, the rail user has one year from the effective date of their decision to "consumate" the abandonment, i.e. remove the rails and track materials and comply with whatever other stipulations or conditions the Board places on the abandonment approval. If the rail carrier does not complete the abandonment within the year, then the authority to abandon the line automatically expires and the carrier must go through the entire application process again and get a new abandonment authorization from the STB if they wish to discontinue common carrier service and/or abandon a rail line. Abandonment cases tend to be long and costly for the applicant, and the STB does recognize that, so there is a mechanism in which the applicant can ask for additional time if they cannot effect the abandonment within the first year. In the few cases that I have followed, the Board has been fairly liberal with handing out requested time extensions.
Bascially, what is going on in this case is that one party is arguing that, since the YW did receive official permission to abandon the line back around 2000, they still have the full authority to remove the line at least as far as the Timber Products mill, while the other party is arguing that, since the YW never did consumate the abandonment within that year and no time extensions had been requested or granted, that any authority there may have been in place allowing for removal of any main line track are null and void, especially since the original corporation requesting abandonment has since transferred their common carrier service obligations to the current company.
I suspect that Bryan Whipple has more than a passing interest in this case, as he has organized two railroad companies in the State of California, one named the "Siskiyou, Ashland & Northern Railroad, Inc." (established 2008) and the other named "Klamath and Modoc Railroad Corporation" (established 2004). However, both companies have very recently lapsed from "Active" to "Suspended" status.
And, lastly, the author of this latest letter (Thomas McFarland) runs a law office that seems to specialize in processing abandonment cases, especially for shortlines. You will find his office involved in almost every single abandonment case that is not associated with either a Class 1 carrier or a corporate-owned shortline.