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Union Pacific Railroad Company Settlement

(Washington, DC - February 09, 2012) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a settlement with Union Pacific Railroad Company regarding alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act.

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Overview of Company and Facility Locations

Union Pacific Rail Road, headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, has 32,000 route miles serving the western two-thirds of the United States.  As the largest operating railroad in the United States, it generated $16.1 billion in 2011 from the transport of chemicals, coal, food and food products, forest products, grain and grain products, intermodal, metals and minerals, and automobiles and parts.

This action resolves Clean Water Act (CWA) violations at 23 facilities in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. 

Facility, Location:

  • 36th Street, Denver CO
  • Burnham, Denver, CO
  • Denver North, Denver CO
  • East Portal Moffat Tunnel, Rollinsville, CO
  • Grand Junction Railyard, Grand Junction, CO
  • Kremmling Railyard, Kremmling, CO
  • Phippsburg, Phippsburg, CO
  • Pueblo Railyard, Pueblo CO
  • Rifle Railyard, Rifle, CO
  • Helper Railyard, Helper, UT
  • Ogden, Odgen, UT
  • Provo Railyard, Provo, UT
  • Roper Railyard, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Salt Lake City North Railyard, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Salt Lake City Intermodal Railyard, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Summit, Soldier Summit, UT
  • Bill, Bill WY
  • Buford, Buford, WY
  • Cheyenne, Cheyenne, WY
  • Green River, Green River, WY
  • Laramie, Laramie, WY
  • Rawlins Railyard, Rawlins, WY
  • Lusk, Lusk WY

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Union Pacific Rail Road violated CWA Section 301, 311 and 402 at 23 facilities in three states.  The violations include:

  • Failure to have adequate secondary containment and/or adequate Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure Plans (SPCC). 
  • Failure to have an adequate Facility Response Plan (FRP) at the Rawlins, WY railyard.
  • Failure of a Government Initiated Unannounced Exercise at the Rawlins, WY railyard.
  • Failure to implement conditions of the Utah Multi-Sector General Permit such as, the preparation and implementation adequate stormwater pollution prevention plans (SWPPPs).
  • Discharges of oil and coal.

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Injunctive Relief

The Decree requires the development and implementation of a management and reporting system designed to ensure compliance with the SPCC, FRP and stormwater programs.  They will also correct SPCC plan deficiencies at 11 facilities, perform technical corrective actions at nine facilities and submit a revised FRP for the Rawlins, WY rail yard.

It is estimated that Union Pacific will spend approximately $500,000 on the injunctive relief.

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Pollutant Reductions

As a result of this settlement, EPA estimates that Union Pacific’s efforts under the Decree will prevent the discharge of approximately 2,500 pounds of chemical oxygen demand, 50 pounds of nitrate, 4,000 pounds of oil and grease, 11,000 pounds of total suspended solids, and 30 pounds of zinc. The company will also safely store 8,540,857 gallons of oil.  EAP also estimate that this settlement will prevent future spills of 10,240 gallons of oil and 130 cubic yards of coal, which mirrors the amounts spilled in the nine spills and is the measure for pollutant reductions in spills cases.

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Health and Environmental Effects

Discharges of stormwater runoff, can have a significant impact on water quality.  As stormwater flows over a facility, it can pick up other pollutants such as debris, pesticides, petroleum products, chemicals, solvents, asphalts and acids which may also contribute to water quality problems. 

Sediment-laden runoff can result in increased turbidity and decreased oxygen in receiving waters, which in turn results in loss of in-stream habitat for fish and other aquatic species.  Sediment can kill fish directly, destroy spawning beds, suffocate fish eggs and bottom dwelling organisms, and block sunlight resulting in reduced growth of beneficial aquatic grasses.  In addition, sediment can impact the treatment of drinking water resulting in higher treatment costs, and can result in the loss of drinking water reservoir storage capacity and decrease the navigational capacity of waterways.

Oil spills are known to cause both immediate and long-term harm to human health and ecosystems.  Oil prevents oxygen in water and can suffocate wildlife.

Oil emulsions may stick to the gills of fish or coat and destroy algae or other plankton.  Floating oil may reduce water exposure to the circulation of oxygen and, in conjunction with emulsified oil, interfere with photosynthesis. 

Oil slicks can kill birds, contaminate food sources, reduce animal and plant reproduction and contaminate nesting habitats.  Oil spills can cause long-term effects years later even if the oil remains in the environment for a relatively short period of time. 

Petroleum oils can also undergo oxidation and polymerization reactions and can form tars that persist in the environment for years. 

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Civil Penalty

The Decree requires Union Pacific to pay a civil penalty of $1.5 million within 30 days of the effective date of the Decree. The SPCC and oil spills portion of the penalty, totaling $1,380,000, will be paid to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. 

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Comment Period

The proposed settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, is subject to a 30-day comment period and final court approval.  Information on submitting comment is available at the Department of Justice website.

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For more information, contact:

Kelly Kaczka Brantner
1200 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20460
Kelly Brantner (

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