CN Rail settles charges over two derailments

Mon May 25, 2009 7:14pm EDT
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canadian National Railway pleaded guilty and paid fines to settled environmental charges stemming from two high-profile derailments in Western Canada, officials said on Monday.

The railroad will pay C$1.8 million ($1.6 million) to resolve the charges stemming from the crashes in August 2005 that leaked oil into Lake Wabamun in Alberta and dropped caustic soda into British Columbia's Cheakamus River, CN said.

Neither accident caused human injury, but the Cheakamus River spill created a large fish kill and both incidents led to authorities filing environmental charges against Canada's largest railway.

The railroad pleaded guilty in provincial courts at Stoney Creek, Alberta, and North Vancouver, British Columbia, to violating laws protecting fish and migratory birds, Environment Canada said.

Canadian National and its insurers have paid more than C$132 million on cleanup and compensation costs stemming from the Lake Wabamun accident, which was caused by a broken rail, the company said.

The railway said it has also spent more than C$7 million on fish restoration and other habitat programs because of the Cheakamus accident near Squamish, British Columbia, that investigators linked to CN's switch to running longer trains in the difficult terrain.

On Thursday, the Transportation Safety Board is scheduled to release the results of its investigation into an accident that sent a CN train plummeting into a canyon near Lillooet, British Columbia, in 2006 that killed two crew members.

($1=$1.12 Canadian)

(Reporting by Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson)