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Hazmat Trespass: Railroad Ordered to Pay $394M

Posted on 6/18/2024 by Lion Technology Inc.

A rail company has been ordered by a Federal judge to pay about $394 million to a Native American tribe in Washington State. The company allegedly trespassed intentionally when it repeatedly ran 100-car trains carrying crude oil across the tribe's reservation.

In 1991, the tribe granted an easement allowing limited use of the tracks that limited rail traffic to one train of 25 cards per day in each direction. Twenty years later, a nearby refinery had plans to start receiving crude oil trains through the tribe’s land.

The tribe sued in 2015 after the rail company dramatically increased the number of cars it was running across the reservation. Last year, two of the rail company’s engines derailed on the tribe’s land, leaking an estimated 3,100 gallons of diesel fuel.

Hazmat Trespass: Railroad Ordered to Pay $394M

The tribe and the rail company discussed amending the agreement, which may have increased the number of cars allowed through the reservation, but did not finalize any amendments.

A judge stated that the $394 million assessment includes $32 million in post-tax profits such as investment income. The judge also noted that, had the real value of the company’s post-tax profits been included, that $394M total would have been hundreds of millions of dollars more.

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