Contact: Sam Brungardt, 651-282-6410
St. Paul, Minn. - Union Pacific Railroad Co. has reached an agreement with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to improve its spill preparedness and to help communities along the Minnesota River equip and train local emergency responders to deal with spills on the river.
The MPCA imposed a civil penalty on Union Pacific when it allegedly found the railroad in violation of a state law that requires it to be prepared to respond rapidly and thoroughly to discharges, or spills from its trains. Such laws are in place to minimize or lessen pollution and to protect public safety and health. The MPCA also found that the railroad did not have adequate rapid access to equipment and sufficiently trained personnel to respond to spills that could threaten Minnesota surface waters or other environmentally sensitive areas.
As a result, the railroad has agreed to pay a $4,000 fine and complete a Supplemental Environmental Project that will cost the railroad at least $40,000. Under the terms of the agreement, Union Pacific will donate or buy at least $20,000 worth of equipment suitable for supporting an on-water spill response and arrange to cache that equipment in Le Sueur, Mankato, St. Peter or another community along the Minnesota River. After the equipment is in place, the railroad will spend at least $20,000 to hire a qualified contractor to provide on-water spill-response training to emergency responders from those communities.
To improve its ability to respond to spills on Minnesota waterways, Union Pacific will establish and maintain a contractor or employee capability for implementing a rapid and effective response to a worst-case discharge of oil or hazardous substance. The railroad will also submit an emergency response plan to the MPCA for review and approval.
The settlement, known as a stipulation agreement, is one of the tools used to achieve compliance with environmental laws. When calculating penalties, the MPCA takes into account how seriously the violation affected the environment, whether it was the first or a repeat violation, and how promptly the violation was reported to appropriate authorities. The agency also attempts to recover the calculated economic benefit gained by failure to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner.