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NATIONAL R.R. PASSENGER v. PENNSYLVANIA PUB. UTIL.

May 10, 2001

NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
V.
THE PENNSYLVANIA PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Newcomer, Senior District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court are two Motions to Dismiss filed by two groups of defendants, and the plaintiffs responses to each in the above captioned case. The Court will resolve both Motions in today's decision.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation ("Amtrak"), has filed this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201 and § 2202 for declaratory and injunctive relief against defendants the Norfolk Southern Railway Company ("NS"), CSX Transportation Corporation ("CSX"), the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and its Commissioners ("PUC"), five individually named PUC Commissioners (the "Commissioners"), and the Southern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority ("SEPTA") and its General Manager. NS and CSX have jointly filed one of the Motions to Dismiss (the "NS-CSX Motion"), while the PUC and the individually named PUC Commissioners have jointly filed the second Motion to Dismiss (the "PUC Motion").

Amtrak is a corporation established by Congress in 1971 pursuant to the Rail Passenger Service Act, 49 U.S.C. § 24101 et seq., with its principal place of business in Washington, D.C. Additionally, the United States owns more than 50 percent of Amtrak's stock.

NS and CSX are Virginia corporations that regularly conduct business in Pennsylvania. The PUC is an administrative body organized and existing under the laws of Pennsylvania, and its powers derive from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Code, 66 PA. CONS.STAT. §§ 101 et seq. SEPTA is a regional transportation authority organized and existing under the laws of Pennsylvania. Its powers derive from the Metropolitan Transportation Authorities Act, 74 PA. CONS.STAT. §§ 1701-1785.

Amtrak's Complaint brings six counts, each one seeking to enjoin the defendants from continuing with proceedings currently pending before the PUC. In those proceedings (the "underlying case"), SEPTA filed five applications*fn1 for the construction of five mini high-level platforms at five different commuter stations along a rail corridor owned by Amtrak and on which Amtrak's rail lines are located, the Northeast Corridor right of way.*fn2 SEPTA's applications seek the PUC to waive certain clearance restrictions that would otherwise bar the platforms SEPTA seeks to construct.

After SEPTA filed its application, NS and CSX filed answers with the PUC objecting to SEPTA's proposed construction of the platforms. In those answers, NS and CSX allegedly represented that they were entitled to move their freight trains along the Northeast Corridor, and on Amtrak's Harrisburg right of way.*fn3 They further claimed that SEPTA's proposed platforms would obstruct movement of NS and CSX freight rail traffic along the Northeast Corridor in violation of their right to move freight along that corridor.

Amtrak decided not to formally participate in the underlying case, but instead sent a letter on April 12, 2000 to the PUC arguing that the PUC did not have jurisdiction over Amtrak in the underlying case. In that letter, Amtrak claimed that the PUC lacked jurisdiction to determine the scope of NS and CSX's right to move freight along the Northeast Corridor. Specifically, Amtrak contended that § 4.3 of a Freight Operating Agreement between Amtrak and NS and CSX mandates that any claim or controversy between Amtrak and NS and/or CSX must be pursued as an arbitration proceeding before the National Arbitration Panel.*fn4

Sometime before Amtrak wrote that letter, SEPTA's applications were assigned to Administrative Law Judge Allison K. Turner for hearing. Judge Turner conducted hearings on April 13, 2000, and May 1, 2000. In a June 14, 2000 Recommended Order and Opinion, Judge Turner proposed granting SEPTA permission to build the platforms, provided the parties construct gauntlet tracks at the relevant rail stations.*fn5 Amtrak alleges that Judge Turner based her recommendation, in part, upon her acceptance of NS and CSX's position that they possess height operating rights along the Northeast Corridor'. Because Amtrak alleges that NS and CSX do not have such rights, Amtrak's Complaint contends that Judge Turner's recommendation was improper

On August 1, 2000, SEPTA, NS and CSX filed exceptions to Judge Turner's recommendation, and SEPTA filed a Petition to Reopen the Proceeding to present additional evidence. Then, on October 25, 2000, upon a review of Judge Turner's recommendation. and the August 1, 2000 submissions of SEPTA, NS and CSX, the PUC adopted SEPTA's Petition to Reopen, ordered that Amtrak be joined as an "indispensable party", and remanded the case to Judge Turner. On November 13, 2000, NS filed a Petition for Reconsideration of the PUC's October 25, 2000 Order, but the PUC denied that Petition on December 22, 2000.*fn6 At this time, the underlying case is once again before Judge Turner.

As explained above, Amtrak's Complaint brings six counts, each one seeking to enjoin the defendants from proceeding with the underlying case. Specifically, Amtrak's first and second counts allege that the arbitration clause of the Freight Operating Agreement governs NS and CSX's assertion of their freight operating rights along the Northeast Corridor. Thus, they contend that the PUC's consideration of that issue violates the arbitration provision of the Freight Operation Agreement between Amtrak and NS and CSX. Accordingly, Amtrak's first and second Counts are brought pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq. (the "FAA"), and seek declaratory and injunctive relief respectively.

Amtrak's third and fourth counts allege that if the PUC implements Judge Turner's recommendation requiring the installation of' gauntlet tracks, that decision would constitute a "State or other law related to [Amtrak's] rates, routes, or service" in violation of' the Rail Passenger Service Act, and would violate the Supremacy Clause of the ...


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