B&D Serving as Lead Trial Counsel for BNSF in First-Impression Clean Water Act Citizen Suit

Beveridge & Diamond defended BNSF Railway Co. in the largest environmental citizen suit, by dollars of relief sought, in US history. BNSF was sued by Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and a host of local environmental groups in federal district court in Seattle. In a case of first impression, Plaintiffs sought to limit the rail transportation of coal and petcoke by seeking Clean Water Act (CWA) penalties for alleged discharges of fugitive dust from all BNSF rail cars and trains carrying coal and petcoke through the State of Washington. The statutory maximum penalty under the Clean Water Act for the allegations in the complaints would have been in excess of $4 trillion.

The trial began in November 2016, but a settlement was reached roughly one week later for $1 million, a non-binding coal car study, and no admission of liability. In a public statement, the company stated that "our settlement of $1 million, which will fund supplemental environmental projects in Washington, reflects the truth that these sweeping allegations were simply unfounded."

BNSF was represented by B&D Principals Tim Sullivan (Baltimore), Eric Klein (Washington, DC), Richard Davis (Washington, DC), and Parker Moore (Washington, DC), and Associate Megan Morgan (Baltimore).

Click here for coverage of this case in Law360.