County proposes BNSF conditions - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

County proposes BNSF conditions

Railroad stalled previous proposals with lawsuit

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Thursday, August 4, 2011 12:00 am

COEUR d'ALENE - Kootenai County is attempting again to improve safety conditions at a train refueling station above the region's drinking water source.

The county commissioners are proposing new amendments to the permit conditions for Burlington-Northern Santa Fe Railroad's refueling depot in Hauser, after previous proposals were stalled by a lawsuit from the railroad.

There is always the possibility of diesel or another contaminant leaking from the facility, said Commissioner Todd Tondee, a risk for the underlying Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer.

"The water source is very important to us and we want to make sure it's protected," Tondee said.

The proposed amendments are similar to those the county pursued late last year.

Under the modified conditions, the railroad would have to notify the Department of Environmental Quality within 24 hours in the event of a leak, and respond immediately by preventing any further release outside containment areas.

The depot would cease operations if a state or federal agency discovered facility-caused contaminants in the aquifer. The station could reopen when the source was determined, and necessary remediation begun.

The amendments would also have the railroad fund an additional staff person for the Department of Environmental Quality's aquifer protection program, every year for as long as the facility is in operation.

And the railroad would have to develop a groundwater-monitoring plan approved by the DEQ. Slant wells would be checked annually.

Commissioner Dan Green said he toured the 500,000-gallon refueling station last year.

He was impressed with the equipment, the staff's professionalism and their efforts to protect water quality, he said.

But he pointed out that thousands of trains are serviced at the depot each year.

"I'm always concerned when there's millions of gallons of fuel and potential contamination to our sole source aquifer," Green said.

The county had looked into adding new regulations to the station after its compliance review in 2009.

But when the commissioners proposed amendments last November, BNSF responded with a lawsuit stating that the county has no authority to impose permitting conditions.

The suit also argued that the compliance review showed no need for changes.

The railroad has since been negotiating with the county on the issue, said BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas.

The company has agreed to the newly proposed amendments, he said.

"We have worked with the county on modifications which, if adopted as proposed, will do away with any need for litigation," Melonas said.

A county examiner will hold a hearing on the permit amendments at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 1 in Room 1 of the county Administration Building.

The commissioners will hold a hearing and deliberate at a later date.

From the refueling station's opening in September 2004 through June of this year, the facility has serviced 70,193 trains.

About 25 trains come through each day, Melonas said.

Shortly after the facility opened in 2004, a leak was discovered that extended to the aquifer. The facility was also shut down by the DEQ in 2005 when diesel was discovered on a protective liner.

BNSF spokespeople have said that those events were followed with thorough investigations and a $10 million investment to rebuild the facility's protective barriers.

Green believes a resolution could be in store.

"I'm hoping these hearings coming up will resolve pending litigation," he said.

More about

More about

More about

  • Discuss

Welcome to the discussion.


  • TinIdol posted at 2:25 pm on Sat, Aug 6, 2011.

    TinIdol Posts: 1

    Attention County Commissioners...

    Cleveland, Ohio is calling.

    BNSF has engaged in conduct which allows you to declare that a "state of emergency" exists within your county.

    Validly applied, the test used to declare the "state of emergency" would FIRST be considered by the US District Court BEFORE the railroad would be allowed to present its ICC argument...US Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3).

    In other words, what defeated you in the prior lawsuit NEVER EVEN GETS CONSIDERED since a validly-applied "state of emergency" is considered first by the court and would render moot any further consideration of BNSF's claims; to wit, "they never even get to go to bat [at the baseball plate]] as it were.

    The beauty of the "state of emergency" declaration is the low, low burden of "complete proof"

    "Complete Proof" in an administrative decision like declaring a "state of emergency" IS NOT "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" as it is in criminal/judicial cases.... OJ Simpson beat that rap using that HIGH LEVEL of proof

    "Complete Proof" in an administrative decision IS NOT even "preponderance of the evidence" which OJ Simpson DID NOT beat the rap on since he was ordered to pay way more than $1 million in damages to the families of at least one of the deceased.

    "Complete Proof" in an administrative decision is worded in different ways depending on the venue. In Federal Administrative Law it is defined as "something less than a preponderance of the evidence" or as Ohio words it, "what a reasonable person would believe"

    No "smoking gun" needed other than the SANCTIONS finding of the Anoka,MN court which was upheld by the MN Court of Appeals. The statement by BNSF Railway VP of Corporate Relations subsequent to the Minneapolis Star Tribune article and the $20 million verdict provides you all the ammo you need

    Note that the verdict required a "civil proof" of "preponderance of the evidence" but that the $4.2 million in sanctions required only the judge to use the lower standard of "what a reasonable person would believe"

    The nation's railroads monitor their own compliance with Federal Regulations... that, of necessity, brings the concept/ethics/values of "stewardship" into play.

    A 'steward" familiar to many over 50 years of age was "Higgins", the majordomo for the Robin Masters Estate on the CBS-TV Show, "Magnum, P.I."

    Higgins could not have acted unethically in one arena and then maintained to Robin Masters that he was ethically worthy of administering his estate.

    "Stewardship" means "squeaky clean"... something the railroads, to their everlasting chagrin, are about to grasp as local communities employ this tool.

    "Stewardship" soothes the public with the assurance that the maximum danger they are allowed to be placed in by 100% Compliance with the Federal Regulationsis in the hands of ethical people.

    Lose that trust and you get booted out the door faster than Robin Masters can ensure that the screen door doesn't hit Higgin's backside.

    It is indeed a "technicality" but like the "postage stamp mail fraud" technicality in the Tom Cruise movie, "The Firm" starring Gene Hackman and Hal Holbrook, it is a "technicality with teeth" just like Tom Cruise told the FBI Agent played by Hollywood Actor, Ed Harris.

    BNSF is currently before the Minnesota Supreme Court and the justices are having a hard time dealing with BNSF's admitted "bad conduct" which the trial court awarded $1.8 million in sanctions
    for. The "bad conduct" is a euphemism for what I personally feel was "total contempt" for the judicial system("law enforcement apparatus" & "the courts")

    The trial judge, Ellen Maas stated she lost count of how many transgressions BNSF made and called their conduct "staggering".

    You will all be linked to the Mansfield (OH) News Journal Forums in a subsequent comment on this story tomorrow.

    Some of you may want to email your County Commissioners with this link

  • Mark on the Park posted at 1:09 pm on Fri, Aug 5, 2011.

    Mark on the Park Posts: 471

    Warren Buffet would never let his bottom line compromise the safety of others. He's a nice arbitrageur.

  • The Truth posted at 9:14 am on Thu, Aug 4, 2011.

    The Truth Posts: 2193

    What, you all are afraid of business and want government intervention? What happened to all the conservatives here? No regulations, right?

  • Always Curious posted at 8:16 am on Thu, Aug 4, 2011.

    Always Curious Posts: 516

    The main reason it was allowed - an extreme fear of never-ending litigation financed by the deep pockets of BNSF that would enventually transfer those costs to the residents of this county.

    Our leadership also made it clear that we couldn't win this battle.

    We were informed that we would have to make the best of the situation with hopes that the future would provide other alternatives or means to allow us to have reasonable control over the regions sole source of potable water.

    It would seem to be a "no-brainer" but unfortunately the clout of the railroad negated common sense.

  • 986crazy posted at 7:39 am on Thu, Aug 4, 2011.

    986crazy Posts: 434

    I will never understand two things:
    1. Why BNSF would WANT to build over an areas source for water.
    2. Why local government would EVER allow it to happen?

    I know people will say payoffs, behind the scenes dealings etc. but it's all just insane.

  • TakeBackTheUSA posted at 4:05 am on Thu, Aug 4, 2011.

    TakeBackTheUSA Posts: 765

    Nothing better than wanting to close the barn door after all the farm animals are dead. This is what happens when govt bends over for business special interest. One thing's for sure. When BNSF finally does do irreparable damage to the drinking water of the entire area, and they will, our homes will be worthless AND Kootenai County residents will be forced to pay with everything thing we have.

default avatar
Welcome to the site! Login or Signup below.
Not you?||
Logout|My Dashboard