State regulators said this week that BNSF Railway Company, the largest railroad company operating in Washington, failed to report 14 releases of various hazardous materials, including crude oil, within the 30 minutes required.
The Utilities and Transportation Commission, which regulates railway safety among other things, said Thursday that a formal complaint has been issued against BNSF. A staff investigation showed 14 incidents between Nov. 1, 2014 and Feb. 24.
BNSF spokesman Gus Malones said in a statement Friday that the UTC investigative report involved “what appear to be very small releases” and that the railroad “believed we were complying in good faith with the requirements from our agency partners.”
The railroad is reviewing the report, Malones said, and also updated its practices after the UTC raised concerns in January.
State rail safety rules require railroads to call the Washington State Emergency Operations Center’s 24-hour duty officer within 30 minutes of learning of an event involving fatalities or injuries, the release of hazardous materials, or property damage greater than $50,000. This is to ensure a rapid response to protect the public and environment.
According to a news release, these were the incidents:
UTC staff has recommended a penalty based on 700 violations of the reporting requirement. Under state law, each day the company fails to report an incident constitutes a separate and distinct violation, the release said. The commission has the authority to impose penalties of up to $1,000 per violation, per day of state law or rule.
The commission will set the final penalty amount after the company has an opportunity for a hearing.