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Rail firm must pay Native American tribe $400m for illegal crude oil trains

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Rail company pays %400,000 to native Anerucan tribeOne of the largest freight railroad networks in North America must pay nearly $400m to the Swinomish Tribe, a federally recognized tribe located in Washington state, a federal judge ordered on Monday. Last year, US district judge Robert Lasnik ruled that BNSF Railway intentionally trespassed when it repeatedly ran 100-car trains carrying crude oil across the tribe’s reservation.

Lasnik held a trial earlier this month to determine how much in profits BNSF had made from trespassing from 2012 to 2021, and how much of the company should be required to repay to the Indigenous group. Lasnik put that figure at $362m and added $32m in post-tax profits such as investment income for a total of more than $394m.

“The only issue to be determined in this phase of the proceedings is the value of the benefits defendant obtained as a result of its willful, conscious, and knowing trespass,” Lasnik wrote in his decision. He added that the amount calculated in post-tax profits could have been much higher. “Although the many unknowns regarding the uses to which BNSF put its ill-gotten profits and the return rates on those investments should be resolved in the Tribe’s favor to ensure that BNSF does not retain any benefit from its wrongdoing, doing so would add hundreds of millions of dollars to an already large restitutionary award.”


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