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Abinante letter to STB 08-05

August 12, 2005

Surface Transportation Board                                    
1925 K Street, NW
Washington, D.C.bb20423-001

Re:     Finance Docket No. 34734
        Northeast Interchange Railway, LLC, Lease and Operation Exemption
        Line in Croton-on-Hudson, New York

Dear Chairman Nober and Members of the Board:

As a Westchester County Legislator and the Chair of the County’s Committee on Solid Waste and Recyclables, I urge the Surface Transportation Board to reject the attempt of Northeast Interchange Railway, LLC (“NIR”), actually a construction and demolition debris processor, to disguise itself as a railroad so as to exempt itself from state and local environmental, land use and anti-corruption regulation.  The County appreciates that the STB has stayed NIR’s notice of exemption and is permitting input from interested parties.

Westchester County has a unique interest in regulating waste haulers.   In 1999, after several years of investigation and research, the County enacted the Westchester County Solid Waste and Recyclables Collection Licensing Law for two grand purposes.  The first, because of our own concerns and pursuant to state mandate,  was to ensure that solid waste generated within the County is disposed of or recycled in an environmentally safe and sound manner.

The second – and perhaps overarching – purpose was to address the threat and influence of organized crime in the solid waste and recycling operations in Westchester County.  Following federal indictments of garbage industry executives, the Board of Legislators commenced an in-depth study and found that organized crime permeated the solid waste hauling industry in Westchester County and constituted a significant problem for the health, safety and welfare of County residents.  The existence of cartels has produced crime and corruption, as well as anti-competitive effects in the industry, including price fixing, prevention of new entry into the industry, and unconscionable customer contract terms.  Through the modification of standards for waste hauling licenses and the expansion of the license application process in the Solid Waste Collection Licensing Law, the County is trying to ensure the good character, honesty and integrity of waste haulers in the County; to encourage competition; to regulate and monitor customer contracts; and to eliminate the influence of organized crime in the solid waste and recyclables collection industry.

Although the County’s position is that any waste hauling operation -- even one disguised as a railroad -- is subject to its licensing law, we have some concern that NIR – with its 1600 foot track spur – would claim itself exempt.  As the STB itself stated in its August 5, 2005 decision staying NIR’s notice of exemption, “The transaction proposed by NIR would . . . trigger[] the agency’s primary jurisdiction and rais[e] important issues regarding the potential preemption of the proposed service from many aspects of local control.”

The County’s opposition to NIR’s application does not arise from NIMBY-ism.  Nor is its opposition merely based on environmental concerns, albeit it shares those very important concerns with the Village of Croton-on-Hudson and the State of New York.  Nor does it seek to interfere with railroad operations.  Rather, the County has a very specific and critically important interest in eliminating the influence of organized crime in the waste hauling business in Westchester County.  I have read NIR’s Notice of Exempt Transaction and am familiar both with the entities mentioned in it and with Metro Enviro, whose assets NIR intends to purchase.  I must advise the STB that the site has had a checkered history with many concerns having  been raised about the good character, honesty and integrity of some of those who have been involved in its operation in the past. Similarly many concerns have been raised about the good character, honesty and integrity of some of those who now want to be involved in its operation and it is respectfully suggested that they may not qualify for a Westchester County Solid Waste and Recyclables Collection License.

As stated in the enclosed resolution, the Westchester County Committee on Solid Waste and Recyclables urges the STB not to permit NIR, an admitted processor of construction and demolition waste, to attempt an end run around our law.  We urge that the STB reject NIR’s notice of exemption.  This decision impacts not only the Village of Croton-on-Hudson; it will set a precedent for the entire County.  If NIR is deemed exempt, every waste hauler with a few feet of track and every hauler located near a railroad track – indeed, every waste hauler who can make a deal with a company located on a railroad track-- will seek a similar exemption and thereby thwart all environmental, land use and anti-corruption regulation of the waste hauling industry.

Thank you for your attention to this very important matter.  Please advise me of any further proceedings related to this application.

Very truly yours,

Thomas J. Abinanti
Chair, Committee on Solid Waste and Recycling