West Virginia Record

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Consent decree ordered in CSX oil spill case

Federal Court

By Kyla Asbury | Sep 6, 2019

Csxtrain

CHARLESTON — A motion to enter a consent decree was granted in a lawsuit against CSX Transportation for an oil spill that was triggered by a derailed train.

Federal Judge Joseph R. Goodwin granted the unopposed motion to enter consent decree and ordered that the proposed consent decree be entered with the court's approval. Goodwin further ordered the action to be dismissed and stricken from the active docket.

The consent decree imposes a civil penalty totaling $2.2 million on CSX.

"As an initial matter, no evidence — including the public comments — suggests that the settlement is illegal or a product of collusion," Goodwin wrote. "Accordingly, the court’s inquiry focuses on whether the proposed consent decree is contrary to the public interest."

In making its determination, the court weighs the seriousness of oil-train derailments and their effect on nearby communities.

"Many railways pass straight through cities and towns," Goodwin wrote. "As noted above, oil-train accidents often result in fires and explosions, threatening the safety of communities. The derailment and oil spill, in this case, threatened the local water supply, destroyed a home, and affected thousands of people."

Goodwin noted that the court found the proposed consent decree also comports with the goals of the Clean Water Act.

"As such, the proposed consent decree is not against the public interest," Goodwin wrote.

The United States of America, the state of West Virginia and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia against CSX Transportation Inc. in 2018 for the oil spill and train derailment.

According to the complaint, a CSX train derailed in February 2015 and spilled oil into the Kanawha River and Armstrong Creek. The spill also affected the land around the waterways. Government officials allege the spilled oil violated the West Virginia Water Pollution Control Act, the West Virginia Groundwater Protection Act and Clean Water Act.

The plaintiffs sought civil penalties up to $2,100 per barrel of oil discharged for violation of the Clean Water Act, civil penalties up to $25,000 per day for violation of the West Virginia Water Pollution Control Act and civil penalties up to $25,000 per day for violations of the West Virginia Groundwater Protection Act. 

They were represented by attorney Devon A. Ahearn of Department of Justice in Washington, Fred B. Westfall Jr. of Department of Justice in Charleston and Lauren E. Ziegler of Environmental Protection Agency in Philadelphia.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia cse number: 2:18-cv-01175

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