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Union Pacific, EPA Reach $1.5M Spill Settlement

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

DENVER (AP) — Federal officials and Union Pacific Railroad have agreed to a $1.5 million settlement over oil and coal spills in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced the settlement with the nation’s largest rail operator on Thursday over eight spills in 2003 and 2004. Seven followed train derailments but one involved a discharge of oily water from a treatment plant at a Denver rail yard, EPA environmental scientist and enforcement officer Donna Inman said.

The deal also settles allegations that Union Pacific didn’t have adequate protections in place in case of spills and other problems at 20 rail yards in the three states. For example, Inman said UP’s Rawlins yard, where trains fuel up, has tanks holding up to 3 million gallons of diesel fuel but still doesn’t have an EPA-approved response plan in case of a spill.

A spokesman for the Omaha, Neb.-based railroad said the company is committed to protecting the environment, including responding to disasters.

“Union Pacific is working to ensure our response plans are up-to-date across our entire network and that our derailment response is as swift as possible while at the same time conforming to all applicable environmental laws,” spokesman Mark Davis said in a statement.

The EPA said the Colorado rail yard violations happened at Denver 36th Street, Burnham, Denver North, East Portal Moffat Tunnel, Grand Junction, Kremmling, Pueblo and Rifle. In Utah, the alleged violations were found at the Helper, Ogden, Provo, Roper, Salt Lake City North and Summit yards. There were violations at the Bill, Buford, Cheyenne, Green River, Laramie and Rawlins yards in Wyoming.

The EPA said all but $100,000 of the fine would go to a federal trust fund used to respond to oil spills. The remainder would go to the government’s general coffers.

The settlement must still be approved by a judge.

By Colleen Slevin, AP Writer (© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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