Montana Public Radio

Proposal Puts BNSF In Charge Of Asbestos-Contaminated Railroad

Sep 1, 2020

A proposed agreement charging BNSF Railway Company with the operation and maintenance of the Libby Asbestos Superfund unit running along its tracks was announced Tuesday by federal and state officials.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and BNSF proposed a consent decree for operable unit six, which encompasses 42 miles of right-away along with rail yards in Libby and Troy.

BNSF transported vermiculite from the W.R. Grace mine near Libby in the past, spreading asbestos along its tracks. The EPA does not expect any more cleanup work within the unit. When it has transferred railroad corridor to BNSF for future management, the rail company will be in charge of limiting unauthorized entry and minimizing the potential for the disturbance of soils along its right-of-way.

In an emailed statement, BNSF said it’s, “committed to implementing best practices and ensuring the protection of the community.”

The consent decree follows a Montana Supreme Court Ruling earlier this year in which the court said BNSF could not shield itself from liability for transporting vermiculite contaminated with asbestos.

Public comment on the proposed agreement runs through Sept. 30.