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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

BNSF fined $72,000 for delays in reporting spills

BNSF Railway Co. has been fined nearly $72,000 by Washington regulators for failing to report leaks from crude oil shipments and other spills in a timely matter.

Railroads must report accidental releases of hazardous materials to the state Emergency Operation Center within 30 minutes after they learn of the spill. BNSF violated the rule 239 times between Nov. 1, 2014, and Feb. 24, 2015, according to an investigation by the state Utilities and Transportation Commission.

Fourteen spills and leaks occurred during that time, investigators said. Each day the railroad failed to report the spill counts as a separate violation, with a possible fine up to $1,000, said Amanda Maxwell, the UTC’s spokeswoman.

A proposed settlement between BNSF and the state would have waived $40,000 in penalties if the railroad complied with reporting requirements for a year. However, the UTC’s three-member commission voted Monday to keep the fine at $71,700, which must be paid within 10 days.

The spills and leaks occurred at various locations across the state. In January, a train hauling crude oil from Spokane to an Anacortes refinery had to have 13 leaking tank cars removed at two different stops. Flawed valves on the tank cars were later blamed for the release.

In two other incidents, 100-gallon spills of lube oil were reported in Quincy and Seattle. There were also reports of diesel fuel leaks and solid hazardous waste shipments dripping sludge.

Gus Melonas, BNSF’s spokesman, could not be reached for comment late Monday afternoon.

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