Right now there are multiple widgets at work, many gears turning and, hopefully, several stars aligning against Norfolk Southern Corporations existence in the form of its ethanol transfer station in Alexandria.
Anti-ethanol activists may need that sort of other worldly luck to affect the facilitys exodus. But if Nofolk Southern never leaves, it wont be for lack of effort on the part of the Ethanol Objectors namely residents of Cameron Station and Summers Grove and Samuel Tucker Elementary students, parents and staff whose grassroots movement has been as efficient as that of any national watchdog group.
The concentrated effort of the Ethanol Objectors is inspirational and relieving.
Before the city could put together the puzzle pieces of Norfolk Southerns legal yet problematic occupancy, the Objectors had already assembled and were tugging at the citys apron to cook this encroaching neighbor.
Norfolk Southern may argue that they owned the property way before shiny new developments sprouted up in the citys southwest corner. In fact, they have been a good corporate citizen in the community for over a hundred years, according to the companys vice president of industrial products.
But Norfolk Southerns neighbors are no longer sparse grassland or industrial corporations they are grassrooted residents who consider their homes shelters, not chemical spill buffer zones (at least they would like to).
And apparently, these residents have a knack for using their First Amendment Rights to get what they want from a government that needed a nudge to serve its people on this issue. It was solely the work of concerned citizens that brought the issue to light in the first place and it is them who have forced at least nominal results at the local and federal level quickly.
A decision by the Transportation Safety Board could give the city the jurisdiction over Norfolk Southern that it believed it had in the first place. If a countersuit against the corporation goes the citys way, Norfolk Southerns operation will at the very least be more regulated. The most conceivable option, however, is the Department of Homeland Securitys pending threat assessment of the facility and others like it.
All of these exit strategies have gone through a chain of meetings, blame games and harsh words to reach their current state. But they were initiated by the Ethanol Objectors, who knew their facts and acted on them in a concentrated fashion.
Councilmember Tim Lovain half-jokingly noted another option while holding a picket sign at the protest against Nofolk Southern last Monday. Another approach, I guess, is shame, he told The Times. If we can just make [Norfolk Southerns] life miserable maybe theyll decide that this isnt the right place for [the facility].
No shame in that.