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Railroad hazardous materials fee struck down

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A federal appeals court in San Francisco struck down a California law imposing a fee on railroads transporting oil and other hazardous materials Thursday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the fee was preempted by a federal commerce law.

In addition, the court said the fee was not protected by a separate federal hazardous materials law that allows some “equitable” fees. The court said the California fee wasn’t fair because it was imposed on railroads but not on trucks.

The law was enacted by the state Legislature in 2013 and went into effect in June 2016, but was blocked later that year by a preliminary injunction issued by a federal district judge in San Francisco.

The measure was challenged by two railroads, BNSF Railway Co. and Union Pacific Railway Co.

The fee was $45 per railway car loaded with oil or hazardous materials, and was intended to help pay for emergency responses in cases of spills.

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