Railroad settles with state over spill costs

Posted: Tuesday, April 17, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Alaska Railroad has agreed to pay more that $530,000 to the state as a result of five railroad spills.

The agreement, which resolves criminal charges against the state-owned railroad, also calls for annual spill drills and a contingency plan to be completed by Oct. 1.

The consent decree filed in Anchorage Superior Court Monday calls for the railroad to pay a civil assessment of $87,000 for three relatively small spills, as well as $450,000 to reimburse the Department of Environmental Conservation for its response to the railroad's spills.

On top of that, the railroad agreed to pay up $194,513 for costs associated with implementing oil spill prevention and response.

The issue of penalties for the biggest of the five spills, the one at Gold Creek north of Talkeetna, remains open. In that spill, a train carrying fuel from North Pole to Anchorage went off the tracks Dec. 22, 1999, and dumped 120,000 gallons of fuel into the wilderness.

The railroad itself has already spent about $10 million cleaning up that spill, and the effort continues. Because of the ongoing cleanup and assessment of the damages from that spill, that case isn't being closed, the DEC said.

The agreement calls for the railroad to begin developing a new oil spill response plan by May 1 and finish it by Oct. 1. The plan will include a section on hazardous materials transported by rail. Annual drills to test the plan are also part of the agreement.

The agreement sends a clear message that the railroad is accountable for good stewardship of the environment, Attorney General Bruce Botelho said in a statement.

''It means the resources we rely on for tourism, food, and recreation are better protected and that our laws to protect those important resources are enforced,'' Botelho said.

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