BNSF

Loco Steve / Flickr

A union representing railroad conductors and switchmen has rejected a plan from BNSF Railway to operate some freight trains with a single employee. Many union members said the proposal raised serious safety concerns. 

BNSF runs important routes throughout the Pacific Northwest, from British Columbia to Portland and across the country.

Paul Chiasson / AP Photo/The Canadian Press

Local and federal responders plan to rehearse how they’d handle the fiery crash of an oil train in Seattle – a hypothetical disaster that will play out around a table in King County.  

King County’s Emergency Management Department is coordinating with about a dozen different agencies in what they call a “tabletop exercise.” Staff will present the scenario, and responders around the table or on the phone then go through the motions of what happens next.

“Let’s say [it's] just a day like today, a nice wonderful day in Seattle. Oil train derails, oil spills, ignites, there's a large fireball in the sky,” said department director Walt Hubbard. “Who would you coordinate with? How would you communicate?”

courtesy Dana Robinson Slote / Seattle City Council

Three tanker cars derailed at a Seattle rail yard early Thursday while carrying oil from North Dakota to a refinery in Anacortes.

No one was hurt and none of the oil spilled, according to Burlington Northern Santa Fe. But the incident spurred renewed calls from the city for a ban on oil train traffic near neighborhoods.  

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

The nation's largest freight rail carriers have announced they will provide health benefits to the same-sex spouses of their employees, one day after legally married, gay engineers filed a federal lawsuit in Seattle.

Gus Melonas, a spokesman for BNSF Railway Co., read the statement from the National Railway Labor Conference to The Associated Press on Wednesday. The conference represents the railroad companies in dealings with labor groups.

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

Two workers are suing BNSF, one of the nation's largest rail companies, saying their same-sex spouses have repeatedly been denied health benefits even though gay marriage is legal in Washington state.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle states BNSF refused to add the spouses of locomotive engineer Michael Hall and conductor Amie Garrand to their plans.

The rapid rise in crude oil shipping by rail means Northwest states need to bulk up their oil spill response capacity. That's according to members of a task force of Pacific states and British Columbia which met in Seattle Wednesday.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Sheriff's deputies and BNSF railroad police are investigating what they say are about a dozen instances of possible tampering with the tracks in southwest Washington. BNSF officials declined to make any connection with an ongoing labor dispute in Longview.

Dan / gigharbor.patch.com

Updated 12:15 p.m. Sunday, February 27: Authorities report the leak has since been repaired, according to a statement from West Pierce Fire & Rescue Sunday as reported by Q13 FOX TV. Authorities confirmed that about 50 gallons of sodium hydroxide spilled. Amtrak passenger service between Seattle and Portland has been suspended because of the accident.