Until Congress acted at the end of 2008, a quirk in Federal law exempted solid waste management facilities located at railyards from state solid waste permitting procedures. This exemption from state and local oversight was part of a broader, historical effort to ensure that interstate railroads are free to operate without being subject to local restrictions. Unfortunately, when this original exemption was put in place, no one realized that complex facilities that have little to do with railroading but a great deal to do with protecting the public health and the environment, would not be subject to the same permitting requirements as competing, non-railyard facilities. This lack of regulatory oversight gave these unregulated facilities an economic advantage and did not guarantee that the public health and the environment will be protected. As a result, the Association, along with a coalition of local and state governments and public sector solid waste managers, worked to ensure that these unregulated facilities would be subject to the same requirements as all solid waste management facilities. The Association filed comments with the House Railroad Subcommittee on the public health and environmental problems caused by the siting of unpermitted transfer stations at rail facilities. For a discussion of the legal and environmental problems formerly posed by these facilities see "Collision Course: Rail Transportation and the Regulation of Solid Waste."
Due to passage of the Clean Railroads Act in 2008, the Surface Transportation Board (STB), which is the Federal agency with responsibility over railroads, is preparing procedures for ensuring that these facilities are fully regulated. A coalition of public and private sector groups, of which the Association was a part, filed comments on the STB proposal.