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BNSF Railway to pay $140,000 over chemical spill near Port of L.A.

Railway TransportationPort of Los Angeles

BNSF Railway has pleaded no contest to criminal charges and agreed to pay $140,000 in penalties, medical expenses and emergency response costs stemming from a 2012 spill of hazardous chemicals near the Port of Los Angeles, the city attorney announced this week.

The rail company had failed to report the June 23, 2012, spill and created a public nuisance when several drums in a cargo container it was transporting leaked phenol, cresylic acid and other corrosive chemicals, City Atty. Mike Feuer's office said. The resulting fumes overwhelmed a Los Angeles Port Police officer, who fell ill and was later hospitalized.

The city attorney's office filed charges against the railroad June 2013 in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

BNSF was ordered Tuesday by Judge Randolph Hammock to pay $99,450 in criminal penalties, reimburse costs to police, fire and health departments and pay medical expenses and lost wages to Port Police Officer Michael Canlas. Under the plea agreement, the company also will make a $20,000 donation to the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium.

Two BSNF employees, Richard Dennison and Edward Phillips, were co-defendants in the case and will see the counts against them dismissed once they complete hazardous materials training courses, according to the judge's order.

In a statement, BNSF Railway said it "always intends to act as a responsible community partner and comply with all reporting requirements."

"On June 23, BNSF inadvertently failed to report a small release promptly," the statement said. "BNSF reiterates its commitment to comply with all applicable laws, including environmental reporting laws and agreed to additional training for certain personnel and additional reporting going forward."

tony.barboza@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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