MORRISTOWN, N.J. (Morris County) – Superior Court Judge Stephan Hansbury Friday directed the Morristown & Erie Railway to work with Morris County to come up with viable safety and emergency response plans to deal with rail cars filled with butane that are being stored on the tracks of the county owned High Bridge Rail Line in western Morris County.
Judge Hansbury also issued a temporary halt to expansion of the number of rail cars stored at that site, with cars already there to remain until a scheduled June 20 follow-up court hearing in Morristown, according to a news release.
Attorneys and officials from the county and M&E Railway met for several hours yesterday in private to discuss possible safety measures that should be put in place in connection with the parked rail cars. Following those discussions, Judge Hansbury directed the two sides to continue that dialogue and urged them to come back in 10 days with a safety plan, the news release said.
Morris County filed legal papers on Monday in Superior Court citing safety issues and a lack of prior county approval by M&E Railway for the butane and propane storage business on the county owned rail line.
The county also asked the court to prevent M&E from adding the butane-filled rail cars already parked on the tracks in Mount Olive with as many as 100 rail cars expected by the end of this month.
The county, which owns the line that is managed and operated by M&E, alleges the company failed to adhere to its contractual agreement requiring the firm to seek county approval for any uses on the rail line other than commercial freight hauling.
The legal papers also contend M&E did not alert county and local fire and emergency responders to the storage plan, and does not have an emergency response plan in place.
Morris County contracts with M&E Railway to operate rail services along its three county-owned railroads, including the High Bridge Branch located in the townships of Roxbury, Mount Olive, and Washington. That five-year contract commenced in 2012 and is due to expire on June 30, 2017.
Under protest and legal correspondence demanding otherwise, the M&E has contracted with Gibson Gas to store rail cars containing propane and butane along the High Bridge Branch in Mount Olive.