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BNSF ordered to pay $400m to Native American tribe over trespassing

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US rail operator BNSF Railway has been ordered to pay $400m to a Native American tribe after constantly trespassing on its land in Washington with 100-car trains carrying crude oil. 

A federal choose in Seattle dominated that the corporate’s actions between 2012 and 2021 had violated a 1991 settlement with the Swinomish Indian Tribal Group that had set a restrict of not more than 25 vehicles per day travelling by the reservation. 

Steve Edwards, chairman of the neighborhood, stated: “We all know that this can be a giant amount of cash. However that simply displays the large wrongful income that BNSF gained by utilizing the Tribe’s land day after day, week after week, 12 months after 12 months, over our objections.” 

Edwards additionally described the ruling as “the one technique to deter future wrongdoing” and repeated claims that the tribal neighborhood had tried to resolve the difficulty with BNSF earlier than going to court docket. 

In court docket, the rail firm had argued that its commitments to shippers below the Interstate Commerce Fee Termination Act outdated the settlement with the Swinomish neighborhood, however this argument was rejected by the court docket of appeals in 2020. 

The USA District Courtroom ruling is the newest improvement within the years-long proceedings between the 2 events, which started with the submitting of the lawsuit in 2015 earlier than the Courtroom of Appeals rejected BNSF’s argument in 2020. 

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second trial to find out if the corporate’s trespass was wilful and understanding was carried out in 2023, with the newest ruling figuring out the precise penalty for the railroad. 

The 1991 easement settlement made between a BNSF predecessor and the Swinomish neighborhood was itself caused after a lawsuit in 1976 which alleged a century of trespassing on the land by the rail firm. 

Tensions had been additionally heightened after two BNSF trains derailed on the reservation final 12 months and spilled roughly 11,700 litres of diesel gasoline close to Padilla Bay. 

Whereas the corporate refused to remark to Railway Know-how, a press release from Edwards stated he anticipated BNSF to attraction the choice to the Ninth Circuit.


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