LOS ANGELES - In a case that highlights his continued emphasis on environmental protection, today City Attorney Mike Feuer secured pleas by BNSF Railway to criminal charges filed by the Environmental Justice and Protection Unit of his office. The charges stem from BNSF's failure to report a hazardous spill near the Port of Los Angeles, resulting in a hazardous materials leak that lasted for a week. The case marks the first time that BNSF, the second largest railway in North America, has pled to criminal charges in California. BNSF pled no contest to failing to report the release of a hazardous material and creating a public nuisance.
"Businesses dealing with hazardous materials have a responsibility to protect the public and safeguard the environment," said Feuer. "If they do not, my office will hold them accountable."
Between June 23 and June 29, 2012, several drums containing hazardous materials including phenol, cresylic acid, and other corrosives that cause inhalation hazards leaked from barrels being transported in a cargo container under the control of BNSF bound for China. Port Police were eventually alerted to the spill while investigating a report of an abandoned container at the location. The Port Police officer who responded was overcome by fumes and later hospitalized.
As a consequence of its plea, BNSF will pay more than $140,000, including criminal penalties, medical expenses and lost wages to the Port Police officer affected by the incident, reimbursement for costs borne by local agencies, and a charitable contribution to the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium. BNSF is also required to conduct hazardous materials training for designated employees, including an employee at the corporate level who will oversee hazardous materials issues.
Deputy City Attorney Elise Ruden of the Office's Environmental Justice and Protection Unit prosecuted the case.