The Swinomish Tribal Community issued this press release yesterday:
The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community filed a lawsuit in federal court today against BNSF Railway (BNSF) for violating the terms of an easement agreement allowing trains to cross its Reservation in Skagit County.
Train tracks running across the northern edge of the Reservation were laid in the late 1800’s, without consent from the Swinomish or federal government. The tracks currently serve two Anacortes refineries. In 1991, the Tribe and BNSF signed an agreement settling a lawsuit filed by the Tribe in 1976 for nearly a century of trespass, and granting BNSF an easement with important conditions: BNSF would regularly update the Tribe on the type of cargo, and only one train of 25 railcars would cross the Reservation in each direction daily. In return, the Tribe agreed not to “arbitrarily withhold permission” if there was a future BNSF request to increase the number of trains or cars.
In late 2012, the Tribe learned from media reports that “unit trains” of 100 railcars or more were beginning to cross the Reservation. Today, BNSF is reportedly running six 100-car “unit trains” per week across the Reservation, more than four times as many railcars daily as permitted by the easement. Each of these trains carry between 2.8 and 3.4 million gallons of Bakken Crude, a particularly dangerous and explosive cargo that has drawn the attention of lawmakers and federal regulators.