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West Virginia Residents Sue CSX Over February Oil Train Derailment

More than 200 residents from southern West Virginia have filed a lawsuit against CSX Corp. seeking punitive and compensatory damages for a fiery oil train derailment in February near their homes.

The plaintiffs claim the derailment caused a serious disruption in their lives and led to a loss of income. They also said CSX was not operating the train correctly and claim that the company failed to properly maintain it and the tracks. The company has declined to comment about the lawsuit.

A 109-car CSX train carrying Bakken Shale crude oil derailed on Feb. 16 in Fayette County, WV, on its way to an oil depot in Yorktown, VA, prompting the temporary evacuation of 1,000 people in the Mount Carbon area, roughly 35 miles southeast of Charleston (see Shale Daily, Feb. 17). Twenty-seven of the oil tankers derailed and CSX said at the time that 19 exploded and caught fire leaking oil into a tributary of the Kanawha River (see Shale DailyFeb. 20).

The plaintiffs claim the leak risked public health and safety and want the Wayne County Circuit Court to grant them an undetermined amount of compensatory damages and health monitoring after the oil and wreckage burned for days.

Federal, state and local organizations responded to the disaster. West Virginia American Water temporarily closed its water treatment plant downstream of the incident and was forced to issue a boil water advisory for its 2,000 customers in the region. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is continuing its investigation and has yet to release a cause.

The train derailed in wintry conditions, and the FRA has said that speed was not a factor as the train was traveling 17 miles per hour under the limit at the time it derailed.

Last year, more than 100 accidents occurred involving oil trains across the U.S. and Canada. Since then, the U.S. Department of Transportation has issued a final rule on shipping flammable liquids by rail, including crude oil and other petroleum products (see Shale DailyMay 1). The new DOT standards include up-to-date tank car design, speed reduction and better brakes, among other things. 

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