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A federal judge has ordered the Department of Justice to embark on a massive search for documents that pertain to the rerouting of hazardous rail cargo away from the nation’s capital. The ruling handed down by Judge Emmet Sullivan last week is the latest action in a lawsuit filed by CSX Transportation Inc. in D.C.’s federal court. The railroad company is trying to block a D.C. law that would prohibit the rail shipment of toxic materials through the city. Last month the D.C. government, along with co-defendant the Sierra Club, filed a motion seeking additional discovery. DOJ lawyers argued they had already looked for relevant material and that the request for a broader search was unreasonable. “There very well could be a memo — a smoking gun in my opinion — that does exist,” Sierra Club attorney James Wrathall, a partner with WilmerHale, said at a Dec. 14 hearing. Sullivan agreed and ordered the feds to conduct a “good faith” search of the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Transportation, and the Surface Transportation Board for any documents relating to rerouting hazmat cargo. In February, just one day after the D.C. Council passed the legislation, CSX, joined by the Justice Department, filed suit seeking an emergency injunction. Sullivan refused, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ordered that there be no changes to rail shipments until the suit is settled. CSX argues the ban is unnecessary because the federal government already has security measures in place. But city officials, unable to view the confidential safety plans, aren’t convinced.
Sarah Kelley can be contacted at [email protected].

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