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BNSF faces fines, other penalties for Washington oil-train derailment

By | September 17, 2021

State senator calls for hearings on incident, citing danger from protests

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Train wreckage
Train wreckage
BNSF faces fines or other penalties for the Dec. 22, 2020, derailment of a BNSF train in Custer, Wash., even if vandalism was involved. (Washington Department of Ecology, via Twitter)

CUSTER, Wash. — BNSF Railway could face fines or other penalties for the December 2020 derailment and fire involving a unit oil train in Custer — even if vandalism or sabotage is the cause.

The Bellingham (Wash.) Herald also reports a Washington state senator is calling for hearings on the derailment, citing the danger from a “new trend in left-wing protests.”

A Federal Railroad Administration report issued Sept. 9 said “possible vandalism” could have led to issues with the train’s brakes and couplers that caused the train to separate, triggering the derailment [see “FRA report calls possible vandalism a ‘contributing factor’ …,” Trains News Wire, Sept. 10, 2021]. But it also cited BNSF’s failure to secure the train during a stop for a crew change, and crews’ failure to run a safety check before departing.

An FRA spokesman told the newspaper that penalties for the railroad would be announced later this year.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale, Wash.) called for legislative hearings, citing the FRA report and last week’s conviction of a Bellingham woman for using a shunt, which interferes with signaling, to disrupt rail operations. “Activism that turns to sabotage invites tragedy,” Ericksen said in a statement citing messages on an anarchist website. “… If this keeps up, it is only a matter of time before someone is hurt or killed.”

An FBI investigation into the derailment continues.

6 thoughts on “BNSF faces fines, other penalties for Washington oil-train derailment

  1. BNSF should terminate all service to the state of Washington in response to this action. This would include abandonment of all right-of-way, demolition of facilities, etc. Businesses whould leave where they’re unwanted. And, never return. Sends the only message political hacks understand.

  2. Senator Erickson (Republican), your assumption that this incident was caused by “left-wing protesters” is big part of why our country is divided. It wouldn’t “Democrats blaming Republicans” or “us blaming them” were in not for politicians promoting divisiveness via their (your) rhetoric. Expend your efforts in finding the cause of the accident, instead of making ridiculous comments and pandering to your base of supporters.

  3. Um-m-m…. Mr. Cox, the cause has already been established and the perpetrators identified. Female “activists” shunted the track causing the train to separate when (as designed) it automatically went into emergency. Cause = effect.
    The perpetrators explained the “motivation” for their act and it is self-evident the ideology that instigated them. As to the BNSF’s crew’s failure to “inspect” their train…….. good luck with requiring that. Can you imagine what it would do to the industry (and the nations economy) if the length of a train had to be “walked” every single time it came to even a short halt or pause somewhere along its route!!!! In time of war these “activists” would be eligible for l-o-n-g prison sentences or even the death penalty as saboteurs.

  4. BNSF Railway could face fines or other penalties…even if vandalism or sabotage is the cause.

    I thought the US operated under a JUSTICE system?

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