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Feds announce settlement in oil train derailment

WASHINGTON, D.C. — CSX Transportation would pay $2.2 million in fines for the 2015 train derailment and oil spill in Fayette County under a tentative settlement announced Tuesday.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced the proposed settlement between the company, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state of West Virginia for violations of the Clean Water Act after the derailment and explosion. Under the terms of the settlement CSX would pay $1.2 million to the U.S. EPA and $1 million to the state of West Virginia.

“Federal law requires the transport of oil through communities like Mount Carbon to be done safely, whether by rail or any other mode. When accidents happen and public health or the environment is harmed, the Justice Department will respond with strong action in close coordination with our federal and state partners,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division in a press release announcing the settlement. “Today’s settlement imposes serious fines under the Clean Water Act for the 2015 CSX train derailment in West Virginia and seeks to deter similar incidents from happening in the future. I applaud the joint efforts of DOJ, EPA, and the State of West Virginia on this case.”

“The 2015 CSX train derailment in Mount Carbon, West Virginia caused significant damage and disruption to that community,” said EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Assistant Administrator Susan Bodine. “Through this settlement EPA, DOJ, and the State of West Virginia are holding CSX Transportation accountable for these consequences.”

The CSX locomotive was hauling 109 tanker cars of Bakken crude oil from North Dakota to Norfolk, Virginia when it jumped the track in the community of Mount Carbon, near Montgomery, in Fayette County. Twenty-seven cars derailed and half of those caught fire and exploded. The spectacular blast sent fireballs and thick, black smoke hundreds of feet into the air. The blast leveled a nearby home and spilled the oil into nearby Armstrong Creek and the Kanawha River.

Miraculously nobody was hurt or killed in the disaster.

An investigation revealed a microscopic crack in the rail was the cause of the catastrophic accident. Investigators say the crack was missed in a routine inspection of the rails prior to the incident.

The proposed settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and still needs the approval of a federal court judge.

U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart applauded the settlement in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.

“The 2015 train derailment was a terrible event causing a declaration of a state of emergency, evacuation of our citizens, and destruction to property. It placed public health and environmental resources at serious peril. I’m very pleased that today’s actions will hopefully deter similar events in the future and that West Virginia will directly receive $1 million of the $2.2 million settlement,” Stuart said.

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