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Court Dumps State Rail Safety Rules

A federal appeals court has dumped state rail safety rules passed after a disastrous spill 12 years ago in the Siskiyou County town of Dunsmuir.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco concluded this week that weaker federal laws pre-empt California´s efforts.

The ruling is a victory for the Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroads. They sued in 1997 to overturn state Public Utilities Commission rules that required more training, tougher track standards and oversight of train layouts.

The railroads had won a lower court ruling in 2000 invalidating many of those rules. The appeals court´s ruling eliminated most of what was left.

In 1991, a Southern Pacific train derailed near Dunsmuir, spilling almost 20,000 gallons of pesticide in the Upper Sacramento River. The spill killed everything in the state´s top fly fishing river for 38 miles. The railroad paid $75 million in fines and settlements.