Diesel Pollution Case Against Burlington Northern Santa Fe Dismissed

U.S. District Court Judge James S. Otero on May 29 dismissed a lawsuit brought by environmental groups against Munger, Tolles & Olson client Burlington Northern Santa Fe Co. and Union Pacific Railroad. The groups alleged that the rail yards emitted harmful diesel pollution.

The Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmental organizations filed a federal lawsuit in 2011 claiming that the companies failed to properly control pollution which put nearby communities at risk of health problems. “The suit took a novel approach by invoking an environmental law traditionally applied to the handling and disposal of hazardous waste, arguing that once the diesel pollution fell onto the ground it became a solid waste subject to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act,” wrote the Daily Journal newspaper.

Judge Otero found that diesel pollution cannot be considered solid waste and that regulating the rail yards under the hazardous waste statute would violate the Clean Air Act.

Munger Tolles attorneys working on the case included Mark B. Helm, Henry Weissmann, Patrick J. Cafferty Jr. and Leo Goldbard.