BNSF to pay fines for oil, diesel spills
WILLISTON, N.D. - BNSF Railway will pay $600,000 in fines as part of a settlement agreement for oil and diesel spills in North Dakota and other states, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday. The agreement with the EPA and th...
WILLISTON, N.D. – BNSF Railway will pay $600,000 in fines as part of a settlement agreement for oil and diesel spills in North Dakota and other states, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday.
The agreement with the EPA and the Department of Justice also addresses inadequate oil spill prevention plans BNSF had at its Grand Forks and Minot rail yards.
The agreement, filed in the U.S. District Court of Colorado, resolves alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act at locations in North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado and Wyoming.
The agreement reflects BNSF’s responsibility for past spills and an effort to improve spill prevention and response at rail facilities in the four states, Suzanne Bohan, EPA’s assistant regional administrator for enforcement programs in Denver, said in a statement.
“By addressing these compliance issues, BNSF’s rail yards are now better prepared to safely manage large volumes of oil and fuel and respond effectively to spills that threaten nearby waters and communities,” Bohan said.
Bohan added that the beneficiaries of the agreement are aquatic life, natural habitats and the people who rely on the Red River, the Souris River, the South Platte River and the North Platte River for drinking water, agriculture and recreation.
The agreement resolves violations stemming from four oil and diesel spills including these in the Dakotas:
- On Feb. 7, 2012, a locomotive owned by BNSF collided with a saltwater truck near Williston, causing the locomotive’s fuel tank to rupture and spill about 3,000 gallons of diesel fuel. At least some of the diesel reached Stony Creek, a tributary of the Missouri River.
- On June 22, 2013, about 200 gallons of diesel fuel spilled during the filling of a BNSF locomotive at the Minot yard. At least some of the spill reached a drainage ditch connected to Livingston Creek, a seasonal tributary of the Souris River.
- On March 9, 2010, a locomotive owned by BNSF leaked about 3,750 gallons of diesel fuel in Mobridge, S.D. At least some of the fuel entered Lake Oahe.
An EPA investigation of BNSF facilities also revealed inadequate spill prevention control plans in Grand Forks, Minot, Denver and Guernsey, Wyo.
The Minot yard has a total oil storage capacity of 514,951 gallons, which includes two large 250,000-gallon tanks. If not properly contained, a spill from either tank would flow into a ditch connected to Livingston Creek and then to the Souris River, according to the settlement agreement filed in court.
The Grand Forks yard has an oil storage capacity of 20,490 gallons, with its largest tank holding 5,630 gallons. If not properly contained, a spill from that tank would flow into a city storm sewer to the English Coulee and then to the Red River, the document states.
The EPA said BNSF has since remedied the deficiencies by cleaning the spill locations and submitting complete spill prevention plans. BNSF also made investments in spill response equipment and installed secondary containment and other infrastructure at the affected rail yards.
“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agreed that BNSF’s responses to the release of fuel in these incidents were prompt and adequate and the agency approved the company's final response plans,” said BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth. “While BNSF has agreed to pay a monetary penalty, the company does not agree with every allegation outlined in the original complaint.”