On February 15, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit decided Norfolk Southern Railway Co. v. City of Roanoke, et al.; the Chesapeake Bay Foundation was an Intervenor-Defendant. The Fourth Circuit held that a large stormwater management fee (stated to be $417,000.00 for the year 2017) levied by the City of Roanoke against the railroad to assist in the financing of the City’s permitted municipal stormwater management system was a permissible fee and not a discriminatory tax placed on the railroad.
The Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 specifically provides that states and localities may not impose any tax that discriminates against a rail carrier, 49 U.S.C. § 11501. Accordingly, the issue confronting the Fourth Circuit was whether the assessment was fee and not a tax.