Shell, BNSF, UP found liable for waste site cleanup
A U.S. appeals court in San Francisco ruled Friday that Shell Oil Co., Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway and Union Pacific Transportation Co. were liable for the cleanup of toxic waste at a site in Arvin near Bakersfield.
A three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco reversed an earlier federal district court’s finding that Shell, BNSF and UP were liable for only a minor portion of the total cleanup bill, saying there was not enough evidence to apportion the harm.
The specific cleanup costs were not mentioned during the trial, but a lawyer who represented California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control, a plaintiff in the case, speaking to Reuters, estimated the cost to be about $10 million.
The facility in the testimony includes a former agricultural chemical plant, adjacent land that was owned by the railroads, and a stockpile of chemicals were supplied and delivered by Shell.
Chemicals leaking into the surrounding area were found in violation of hazardous waste laws. The EPA also found evidence of soil and groundwater contamination.
After a cleanup, the federal and state officials went after Shell, BNSF and UP for reimbursement of the incurred costs.