SPOKANE, Wash. --- After making headlines last year for blocking rail traffic in Spokane, the ‘Raging Grannies’ and other protesters have filed a federal lawsuit, claiming their right to a livable climate has been blocked by a 1995 law.
The law mentioned in the suit, the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995, prohibits local lawmaking that would ban the transportation by rail of fossil fuels through cities – even when local law is trying to prevent climate change or the safety and health of residents.
The lawsuit, filed by the protesters and an area physician who sponsored a local ballot initiative to ban coal and oil trains through downtown, asks the courts to find that the federal law is unconstitutional.
They argue it is unconstitutional for three reasons:
1) The Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995 violates the federal right of the plaintiffs to a livable climate
2) The law violates the federal constitutional right of plaintiffs to local community self-government
3) The law violates the state constitutional right of plaintiffs to local community self-government.
The Spokane City Council was going to ask voters about a potential ban on coal and oil trains running through downtown – the ballot initiative sponsored by an area physician – but city lawyers advised them not do put it on the ballot. They said even a local ban would be pre-empted by the federal law.
The “Raging Grannies” group made headlines over the summer after being charged for obstructing a train. They stopped 11 trains, with one fully loaded with coal.
At the time, BNSF railroad officials gave a statement about their safety efforts:
“There are a number of better options to promote safety, including collaboration with industry and federal regulators to further enhance safety. We stand ready to work with federal, state, and local leaders to continue to improve safety while maintaining the efficient flow of commerce to and from Spokane.”