BNSF files motion to join federal lawsuit against state

Lawsuit is against Gov. Jay Inslee, key members of his administration

Courtesy of BNSF Railway Company.

BNSF Railway Company (BNSF) has requested to join as an intervener in the lawsuit filed by Lighthouse Resources against Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and key members of his administration for violating the U.S. Constitution and other federal statutes.

According to a news release from BNSF, BNSF’s complaint, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, Wash., contends that Washington state officials have unduly burdened interstate commerce, a violation of the Constitution’s dormant commerce clause, and the ICC Termination Act (ICCTA), by using supposed rail impacts to unreasonably deny permits for Millennium Bulk Terminals. When it comes to regulating railroad operations, federal law preempts state regulation.

“As a common carrier, BNSF is required by federal law to move regulated goods, including coal,” said Roger Nober, BNSF’s executive vice president of Law and Corporate Affairs. “Permitting this facility should have followed the long-established process of making a determination based on site-specific impacts; instead they have taken it upon themselves to deny permits based on so-called rail impacts. This is a very clear violation of federal law.”

BNSF’s complaint outlines how Washington state officials violated ICCTA by using the transportation of coal by rail as the basis for denying permits for Millennium Bulk Terminals. Federal law preempts state regulation of railroad operations.

The complaint also shows the defendants have interfered with BNSF’s ability to engage in foreign commerce through the transport of coal to Millennium for export to Asian markets, in violation of the dormant foreign commerce clause. BNSF’s complaint also contends that Washington state officials’ actions amount to an embargo on American coal exports, which is also a violation of the foreign commerce clause.

In the complaint, BNSF requests, among other things, a declaration by the court that denials of permits by Washington state based on purported rail-related impacts is a violation of federal law and an order vacating all of the defendants’ unconstitutional and illegal decisions regarding Millennium Bulk Terminals.

About BNSF

BNSF Railway is one of North America’s leading freight transportation companies, and operates approximately 32,500 route miles of track in 28 states and also operates in three Canadian provinces. BNSF is one of the top transporters of consumer goods, grain and agricultural products, low-sulfur coal, and industrial goods such as petroleum, chemicals, housing materials, food and beverages. BNSF’s shipments help feed, clothe, supply, and power American homes and businesses every day. – Joanna Yorke



Joanna Yorke is the managing editor of the Vancouver Business Journal. She has worked in the journalism field since 2010 after graduating from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University in Pullman. Yorke worked at The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground for six years and then worked at and helped start