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Norfolk Southern

Hon. John Warner
U.S. Senate
225 Russell Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

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144 Russell Building
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Alexandria, VA 22314

This page contains references and links to all electronic communications among City staff, and between City staff, Norfolk Southern, and the community regarding the establishment and operation of the Ethanol Transloading Facility. The communications, furnished in response to requests made under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, cover the period from June 20, 2006 at 8 a.m. to May 29, 2008, at 5 p.m.

E-mail addresses and telephone numbers have been redacted to protect the privacy of residents and of City staff whose home and mobile phone numbers were included on the communications. To contact City officials or staff, please use the links on the left side of this page, or Contact Us.

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Re: Fw: Ten rail tank cars now at the Norfolk Southern facility

  • To: Adam Thiel
  • Subject: Re: Fw: Ten rail tank cars now at the Norfolk Southern facility
  • From: Ignacio Pessoa/Alex
  • Date: 04 Apr 2008 19:19:12
  • Bcc:
  • Cc:

FYI, since the Airports Authority has foam trucks.  Phil Sunderland, former city attorney and city manager, is now their VP and soon to be general counsel, and may be able to help with a response agreement, if that helps.

Adam Thiel/Alex

04/04/2008 07:05 PM

Ignacio Pessoa/Alex@Alex, Jim Hartmann/Alex@Alex, Michele Evans/Alex@Alex, Faroll Hamer/Alex@ALEX
John Catlett/Alex@Alex, Robert Rodriguez/Alex@Alex, Richard Josephson/Alex@ALEX
Re: Fw: Ten rail tank cars now at the Norfolk Southern facilityLink

Unless I hear differently, we're going to notify our operational folks that this is well as our regional partners.

We're now way behind the planning/operations curve on this deal...if there's anything we can do to slow this down, it would be a very good idea. (Although I don't know what that would be at this point.)

I want to be clear...we do not have the capacity to deal with a significant event at this 'facility,' nor does that capability presently exist within our mutual-aid system. We'll be working hard next week to develop some options and operational plans to address the potential scenarios.

Thanks for the heads-up!


    ----- Original Message -----

    From: Ignacio Pessoa
    Sent: 04/04/2008 06:57 PM
    To: Jim Hartmann; Michele Evans; Adam Thiel; Faroll Hamer
    Cc: John Catlett; Robert Rodriguez; Richard Josephson
    Subject: Re: Fw: Ten rail tank cars now at the Norfolk Southern facility

Unfortunately, since we last met on January 16 to review this potential use at the Norfolk Southern facility, the Surface Transportation Board (STB -- the successor to the Interstate Commerce Commission as the federal regulatory agency with oversight of railroad operations) has again addressed the scope of federal preemption of local zoning laws as such local laws may effect railroad transloading operations.

"Transloading" is a term of art in the bulk transportation regulations.  It means transferring bulk shipments from the vehicle/container of one mode of transportation to that of another mode, at a terminal interchange point.

Under this most recent decision, local zoning regulation of material transloading from rail car to truck, or from truck to rail car, such as is being proposed here for ethanol, has now unequivocally been found to be preempted.  This preemption exists even if the transloading is handled by a contractor, so long as the contractor is acting as the agent of the railroad, and is taking delivery of or loading a bulk product without making significant processing changes to the material at the rail site.  This finding of preemption is especially true as to a pre-activity permit (such as an SUP) which entails any substantial delay or affords the locality any significant discretion to allow or prohibit the transloading use.

However, traditional health and safety codes, such as building and fire prevention and haz mat regulations, are not preempted, so long as such codes regulate the manner in which the use is conducted, are reasonably objective in the standards imposed, are not applied in a discriminatory fashion, and will not have the effect of unreasonably preventing the conduct of the use.  I understand that the proposed ethanol transloading use will comply with all such existing regulations.  I would note that new health and safety regulations may be enacted, so long as they meet the foregoing requirements and give the rail carrier a reasonable time to comply.

Accordingly, I believe that Adam should undertake the notifications he thinks appropriate.  Since the City is now left with no viable zoning objection to the use, such contacts and activities cannot fairly be seen as evidencing the City's acquiescence in the use.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Jim Hartmann/Alex

04/04/2008 03:44 PM

Adam Thiel/Alex@Alex
Ignacio Pessoa/Alex@Alex, John Catlett/Alex@Alex, Michele Evans/Alex@Alex, Robert Rodriguez/Alex@Alex
Re: Fw: Ten rail tank cars now at the Norfolk Southern facilityLink

Ignacio, can we put some sort of legal pressure on this intensification of use?

Jim Hartmann
Alexandria City Manager

Adam Thiel/Alex

04/04/2008 02:31 PM

Jim Hartmann/Alex@Alex, Michele Evans/Alex@Alex, Ignacio Pessoa/Alex@Alex, John Catlett/Alex@Alex, Robert Rodriguez/Alex@Alex
Re: Fw: Ten rail tank cars now at the Norfolk Southern facilityLink

I generally understand the political/legal sensitivities/implications associated with this change-of-use at the Norfolk Southern Intermodal Ramp.

That said, we are now "way behind" in terms of our preparation/readiness for an emergency event involving bulk quantities of ethanol. Our needs go far beyond site familiarization and training on the transloading process. We do not have the equipment or supplies to handle a fire at this site; and neither do our regional partners. (I.e., we can't just call for mutual-aid and get what we need.)

There's a lot we need to do at this point...recommend we get a meeting of the principals together ASAP.

Also, we need to notify our Operations folks, VDEM, and FFX/ARL counties without delay.


Adam K. Thiel
Fire Chief
Alexandria Fire Department
900 Second Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx
Fax: xxx-xxx-xxxx
E-mail: text converted to image to prevent junkmail harvesting

John Catlett/Alex

04/04/2008 02:04 PM

Michele Evans@Alex@Alex, Ignacio Pessoa
Adam Thiel/Alex@Alex
Fw: Ten rail tank cars now at the Norfolk Southern facility


It appears this will be in operation within the next couple of days.  If this starts operations, we really do need the training and overview for our staff and fire operation staff.

John D. Catlett, MCP
Code Enforcement Director
Alexandria Fire Department
301 King Street, Room 4200
Alexandria, Virginia  22314

Office: xxx-xxx-xxxx, Ext. 110
Fax: xxx-xxx-xxxx

"Don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great."
John D. Rockefeller

----- Forwarded by John Catlett/Alex on 04/04/2008 01:57 PM -----
Robert Rodriguez/Alex

04/04/2008 01:54 PM

John Catlett/Alex@Alex, Adam Thiel/Alex@Alex, Ignacio Pessoa/Alex@Alex, Richard Josephson/Alex@ALEX
Ten rail tank cars now at the Norfolk Southern facility

All -
I have just driven by the Norfolk Southern yard and there are ten brand new tank cars located on the siding inside the perimeter fence.  We also just received another phone requesting to place keys in the Knox Box at the facility and meet with on site staff to go over the plant / process.
Please advise if we need to take any further action.

Robert B. Rodriguez
Chief Fire Marshal
Alexandria Fire Department / Code Enforcement
301 King Street, Room 4200
Alexandria, Virginia 22314

Office  xxx-xxx-xxxx
Direct xxx-xxx-xxxx ext. 118
Fax     xxx-xxx-xxxx