Deal reached with railroad over oil spills

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday it reached a settlement with Union Pacific Railroad stemming from past oil and coal spills as well as alleged violations of regulations meant to mitigate impacts from future spills at rail yards in 20 communities across Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, including Grand Junction.

The six oil spills and three coal spills occurred in 2003 and 2004, including a June 2004 derailment in which 100 cubic yards of coal and six rail cars fell into the Gunnison River outside Grand Junction.

The Grand Junction rail yard was included as one of eight Colorado yards in which Union Pacific is alleged to have had inadequate plans or facilities to safely store oil and prevent it from spilling outside its properties — in the case of Grand Junction, potentially into the Colorado River.

A 2005 plan for the Grand Junction rail yard required under the EPA’s spill-prevention regulations failed to comply with several regulatory measures.

The settlement requires Union Pacific to develop a management and reporting system ensuring compliance with EPA regulations and to pay a $1.5 million penalty, of which $1.4 million will go to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund and the remainder to pay for coal spill and stormwater runoff violations.

“We are committed to protecting the environment now and for future generations. Our employees, customers, shareholders and the communities we serve can expect our full compliance with all laws and regulations,” Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis said.

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