Union Pacific has spent nearly $9 million on the aftermath of June’s oil-train derailment and fire along the Columbia River. Also, Washington and Oregon are adding up bills they’ll send the railroad, the EPA has a tab, and local officials are in talks over compensation.
VANCOUVER, Wash. — Six months after a train hauling Bakken crude oil derailedin the Columbia River Gorge, agencies in Washington and Oregon are still tabulating a bill to send to Union Pacific Railroad.
Union Pacific said in a statement it is committed to absorbing all the costs incurred as a result of the fiery crash June 3 in Mosier, Ore.
The railroad is not required to disclose costs associated with its cleanup efforts or how much its insurance will cover, The Columbian newspaper reported. But an email obtained by the newspaper shows the railroad has estimated its costs associated with the derailment at about $8.9 million.
The railroad reported $1.7 million in equipment damage and $176,811 in track damage to the Federal Railroad Administration, with the remaining millions for response and remediation costs.
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Meanwhile, an intergovernmental group made up of officials with the city of Mosier, the local fire district and a school foundation is in negotiations with the railroad over compensation and other issues.
William Gary, a Portland attorney working with that Mosier group, declined to say what kind of compensation the government agencies are seeking. “We are in a confidential mediation at the moment,” Gary said. “We’re working with the railroad to resolve a host of fairly complicated issues.”
Three Oregon agencies that responded to the newspaper’s request for information, including the Department of Environmental Quality, say they’re seeking a total of nearly $400,000 in reimbursement. That amount could increase.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency’s bill is at $340,000, the newspaper reported.
And two Washington state agencies that responded to the derailment are billing the railroad $66,000 next month, a Department of Ecology spokeswoman said.
Sixteen tanker cars that went off the tracks in June held 448,000 gallons of oil, but only 47,000 gallons leaked. Much of that went into a wastewater-treatment unit, avoiding a more difficult river cleanup.
There remain unanswered questions, however, such as the degree to which the river was affected and what long-term effects there could be on the groundwater and soil.
After the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaskan waters in 1989, Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act in 1990. That law requires polluters to pay cleanup, remediation and response costs; they must have insurance and the funds to cover the cleanup.
To address the growing risks of oil movement through the state, the Washington Legislature in 2015 passed a law that will soon require railroads hauling crude oil to demonstrate the ability to pay damages in the event of a spill.
They also will be required to share information about the type of oil and the volume with the state and first responders. California and Minnesota have similar laws for railroads hauling crude, according to Washington’s Department of Ecology. But Oregon does not have such a law.