West-side Native Tribe Sues BNSF Over Oil Trains
A Native American tribe has filed suit to stop oil trains from crossing their reservation. The Swinomish tribe of Western Washington has filed a suit in federal court against BNSF railway.
Director of the office of Tribal attorney Steven LeCuyer says the tribe had an agreement dating from 1991 from a previous suit that granted the railway an easement with conditions that included updates on the type of cargo crossing the reservation, and a limit of trains to just 25 railcars.
LeCuyer says they found out through media reports that up to six trains a week as long as 100 cars long carrying crude oil have been crossing the reservation.
LeCuyer: "And the tribe's position is: a deal is a deal. Burlington Northern should be honoring the terms of that deal, particularly when it was a deal to honor a trespass lawsuit. Number two is the tribe has become increasingly concerned, as have people across the country with the dangers posed by the transportation of Bakken crude oil by rail.”
Bakken crude oil has been involved in several major explosions and fire in connection with derailments in the last year. The tribal spokesman says there is concern over a contamination of the marine ecosystem on Fidalgo Island in Puget sound where the reservation lies, and the threat of a catastrophic fire to the tribes economic development center.
The suit filed in federal court seeks to limit the trains to 25 cars, as per the original easement, and to halt shipment of Bakken crude in any of the rail cars.
A spokesman from BNSF says there are reviewing the suit and offered no comment.