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BNSF Railway Company v. City of Edmond

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

October 30, 2019

BNSF RAILWAY COMPANY, A Delaware Corporation, Plaintiff,
CITY OF EDMOND, OKLAHOMA, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff BNSF Railway Company has filed this lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Oklahoma's recently enacted “Blocked Crossing Statute, ” Okla. Stat. tit. 66, § 190. Plaintiff's Complaint seeks declaratory and injunctive relief and names five Defendants. Two are municipal corporations: (1) City of Edmond, Oklahoma (“City of Edmond”); and (2) City of Davis, Oklahoma (“City of Davis”). Three are individuals sued in their capacity as officials on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (“OCC”): (3) Todd Hiett (OCC Chairman); (4) Bob Anthony (OCC Vice-Chairman); and (5) Dana Murphy (OCC Commissioner) (collectively, the “OCC Defendants”). See Compl. (Doc. No. 1) at 1-2.

         Now before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion seeking that Defendants be enjoined from prosecuting and enforcing the Blocked Crossing Statute during the pendency of this lawsuit. See Pl.'s Mot. Prelim. Inj. (Doc. No. 14). The OCC Defendants have filed a Response (Doc. No. 30), to which Plaintiff has replied (Doc. No. 31). In addition, Defendant City of Davis has filed a Stipulation agreeing to stay enforcement of the Blocked Crossing Statute while this lawsuit is pending. See Stip. (Doc. No. 28). Defendant City of Edmond has not responded to the Motion within the time allowed.

         I. Background

         On July 1, 2019, the Blocked Crossing Statute took effect. The Statute provides in relevant part:

A. As it is immediately necessary for the safety and welfare of the people, no railcar shall be brought to rest in a position which blocks vehicular traffic at a railroad intersection with a public highway or street for longer than ten (10) minutes.
B. Municipalities, county sheriffs and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol shall have the authority to issue a citation to any person or corporation that violates a provision of this section. Such person or corporation shall be subject to a fine of up to One Thousand Dollars ($1, 000.00) for each violation. Seventy-five percent (75%) of the collected fine shall be deposited to the credit of the general fund of the entity that issued the citation and the remaining twenty-five percent (25%) shall be credited to the Corporation Commission Revolving Fund established in Section 180.7 of Title 17 of the Oklahoma Statutes. A copy of the citation, along with any information regarding train identification, shall be sent to the Corporation Commission for enforcement of the penalty at a hearing before an administrative law judge of the Commission. The violating entity or individual may appeal the administrative law judge's decision to the Commission en banc. The Commission shall annually deliver an electronic report detailing the number of violations, number of rulings, number of appeals and amount of fines assessed under this section. Commission reports shall be delivered to the Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, the President Pro Tempore of the Oklahoma State Senate and the Governor. The Commission shall promulgate rules and procedures to effectuate the provisions of this section.
. . . .
C. Every railroad shall be operated in such a manner as to minimize obstruction of emergency vehicles at public highway grade crossings.

Okla. Stat. tit. 66, § 190.

         On August 22, 2019, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit, alleging that the Blocked Crossing Statute is preempted by the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (“ICCTA”), 49 U.S.C. §§ 10101 et seq., and by the Federal Railroad Safety Act (“FRCA”), 49 U.S.C. §§ 20101 et seq. See Compl. ¶¶ 13, 15-19, 22-27.

         II. Preliminary Injunctive Relief

         Plaintiff has requested a preliminary injunction preventing Defendants from enforcing and prosecuting the Blocked Crossing Statute. A preliminary injunction is “an extraordinary remedy, ” and to obtain such relief, Plaintiff must show: “(1) a likelihood of success on the merits; (2) a likelihood that the movant will suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief; (3) that the balance of equities tips in the movant's favor; and (4) that the injunction is in the public interest.” Att'y Gen. of Okla. v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 565 F.3d 769, 776 (10th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Chamber of Commerce v. Edmondson, 594 F.3d 742, 764-71 (10th Cir. 2010) (upholding district court's entry of a preliminary injunction of a statute alleged to be preempted by federal law).[1]

         Plaintiff's showing of these factors is essentially uncontested. See OCC Defs.' Resp. at 1-3 (stating that the OCC Defendants should not be subject to an injunction and noting they “do[] not concede” ...

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