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More train troubles surface

UP to pay more than $2M in hazmat lawsuit
By: Brody Fernandez Of Gold Country Media
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The Placer County District Attorney’s office detailed Union Pacific's agreement to pay $2.3-plus million in a settlement reached with the county, according to District Attorney R. Scott Owens in a press release Friday.

This news comes only months after the company announced one of several workforce reductions planned through 2020, according to Union Pacific officials. The first workforce reduction will affect nearly 500 employees.

According to Friday’s press release, Placer County Superior Court Judge Alan Pineschi approved a settlement agreement and the Union Pacific Railroad Company will pay more than $2.3 million in damages in a multi-jurisdictional environmental prosecution case.

In addition to monetary penalties, Union Pacific will implement a new environmental compliance assurance program at rail yards in Placer, Nevada, San Joaquin and San Bernardino counties. A compliance officer will monitor and report on Union Pacific Railroad Company’s training and compliance at these facilities.

The complaint said that Union Pacific mishandled hazardous wastes, mishandled materials stored in aboveground storage tanks, maintained inaccurate hazardous material business plans and was responsible for hazardous substances’ spills during an eight-year period. The settlement resolves the allegations made in the District Attorneys’ complaint.

Placer County is home to Union Pacific’s J.R. Davis Railyard in Roseville. This facility amasses more than 900 acres and can have up to 1,000 employees on site at any given time, according to a prior Press Tribune report.

Gold Country Media asked Union Pacific spokeswoman Hannah Bolte what precautions the company will take to prevent this oversight in the future.

“Union Pacific took immediate action after learning about the hazardous material regulatory claims,” Bolte said. “We pinpointed the main source of the issues to personnel issues, which were addressed right away. We also hired a third-party environmental compliance officer to monitor and report our compliance with environmental laws and regulations.”  

Union Pacific helped mitigate the issue in other California counties, according to Bolte.

“Union Pacific worked closely and cooperatively with the district attorneys in four California counties to reach a mutually-acceptable agreement to resolve these claims,” Bolte said. “We have taken necessary steps to prevent future recurrence.”