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Federal government reaches settlement with BNSF over North Platte River fuel spill

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Train Derailment

Nearly 6,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled into the North Platte River when BNSF coal trains collided in February 2019 in Wendover Canyon. The federal government reached a $140,000 settlement on Monday with a major railway company over the spill.

The federal government reached a $140,000 settlement with a major railway company over a 2019 oil spill in the North Platte River near Guernsey, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday.

The incident occurred on Feb. 4, 2019 in remote Wendover Canyon, northwest of Guernsey. Three locomotives and five rail cars owned by BNSF crashed into a train and derailed into the waterway. Two company employees, an engineer and a conductor, sustained non-life threatening injuries.

The accident caused 5,900 gallons of diesel fuels and 800 gallons of lubricating oil to spill into the North Platte River.

BNSF notified the National Response Center, and an EPA official responded to the scene. The company placed floating devices downriver to trap and collect fuel from the spill. It also worked with the Bureau of Reclamation to slow the river’s flow.

Since then, the railway company has coordinated cleanup and remediation with state regulators and the EPA.

According to the consent agreement, remediation met the standards set by state environmental regulators.

The EPA alleged BNSF violated the Clean Water Act, because the derailment led to levels of hazardous substances polluting the river and potentially threatening public safety.

The discharge broke water quality standards by resulting in a “film or sheen upon or discoloration” of the North Platte River, and “sludge or emulsion” deposits on the water’s surface, the consent agreement stated.

The two parties reached a consent agreement and BNSF will pay $140,000, if the agreement is approved.

EPA’s announcement on Monday opens up a 30-day public comment period.

A regional judicial officer working for the EPA will then need to endorse the agreement.

Follow the latest on Wyoming’s energy industry and the environment at @camillereports


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Energy and Natural Resources Reporter

Camille Erickson covers the state's energy industries. She received her master's degree at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Before moving to Casper in 2019, she reported on business and labor in Minneapolis, Chicago and Washington.

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