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No, not pointless at all. The STB simply denied the request for a temporary injunction, which is what is called 'extraordinary relief." A temporary injunction, or "TRO,' (temporary restraining order) is simply an emergency order commanding that someone stop doing something pending a full hearing on the issue. It's like a "time out" being called. A TRO requires a showing of "irreparable harm" that will be suffered if the TRO isn't issued. As the ruling explains, NCRA/NWP didn't show "irreparable harm." It appears that circumstances changed between the time of the filing for the TRO and the present. From the ruling: "As noted, the two conference calls with Board staff and the parties clarified that the dispute over which Petitioners seek preliminary injunctive relief is now limited to the treatment of the 12 LPG tanker cars currently on the track near NWPCo’s interchange with the California Northern Railroad and the additional 30 loaded LPG tank cars also bound for the Schellville yard that NWPCo currently has on voluntary hold. There is no evidence that the 12 cars are preventing access to the line through the interchange with California Northern. Rather, recently, with some effort, NWPCo was able to move other cars on the line after pushing the 12 cars about a mile onto the California Northern to a siding, moving other cars through the interchange, and then pushing the 12 cars back into place on the Lombard Segment." In other words, the problem posing "irreparable harm" was solved in the interim. This doesn't, however, mean the case is over or NCRA/NWP "lost." Quite to the contrary. The underlying complain still stands and will be heard. From the ruling: "This case raises a number of novel issues relating to the common carrier obligation, and, as the Board noted in the October 7 decision, it will issue a further order shortly specifying issues for further briefing by both parties. Further briefing will give the Board the information it needs to consider the merits of the petition." Also, at least one Board member was less than convinced that there isn't a continuing problem with the 12 tank cars stuck at the interchange, noting that moving them to get traffic past them and then moving them back risks an accident. That issue is addressed at some length in the "concurring opinion" at the end of the ruling. In other words, where it stands is that for the time being, they aren't going to order SMART to quit doing anything until after they have a full hearing on it, but they are going to have a full hearing on it and decide if SMART's actions are permitted or not.
Correct. No PRELIMINARY injunction pending a full hearing on the underlying petition. An injunction still MAY issue after the hearing, so SMART can keep blocking the tank cars pending the hearing because the STB found it wasn't going to cause irreparable harm to NCRA/NWP at the moment. (Reading between the lines, it appears the STB may well have issued the injunction if NWP wasn't able to move the cars to open access to other traffic at Lombard... that was originally the "irreparable harm," but they apparently found a solution, albeit a poor one, for the moment. They can still hold that SMART can't control freight cargos on shared tracks AFTER they hold the hearing on the petition. The STB says they not significant issues are still outstanding and will be requesting further briefing on those... So the ball is still in play.
SMART has always played these games with NWP. They have some sort of power issue. They have tried to strong arm the NCRA and NWP often. Heck, if you read SMART's operator reports, they sometimes refer to NWP as their freight operator. When this first came to public eye, the news paper quote from smart was that NWP wasn't allowed freight movements. The original petition had an email where that was true, smart was blocking all freight. Then when NCRA/NWP filed with the STB, the SMART rebuttal has what appeared to be SMART's dispatch frantically trying to get a hold of NWP via Jake Park dated after they were served to get those freight cars moving. I think the injunction was to only scare SMART into getting the freight moving again and hoping to get the 12 cars rolling. I think the 12 cars thing is going to also be fixed sooner than later, but the board couldn't rule on that. It does say that they are sending a copy to the FRA, so that may pick up some urgency to move the 12 cars... We will see...
Yep. The problem is the attitude of the politicians' on the SMART board. NWP Co. isn't "their" freight operator. They really don't get it. They don't understand what a freight easement means. This is what happens when people on county boards of supervisors and local city councils end up running an agency which must function in the context of interstate commerce and FRA regulations.
I have to note how smart uses "HAZARDOUS MATERIALS" vs "liquified petroleum gas" kind of inflammatory language. (pun noted)