Union Pacific Railroad Sues to Exempt Itself From Gorge Protections

January 11, 2017 (Portland, OR) – Yesterday Union Pacific, just months after it caused an oil train derailment and fire in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in the town of Mosier, filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to exempt itself from laws that protect this federally designated National Scenic Area and its communities. Read Union Pacific’s filing.

“This lawsuit shows Union Pacific’s callous disregard for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, tribal treaty rights and the safety of communities throughout the Gorge,” said Michael Lang, Conservation Director of Friends of the Columbia Gorge. “We look forward to challenging the railroads claims in federal court.”

Last November, Union Pacific’s rail expansion application was denied by Wasco County due to violations of its National Scenic Area ordinance and infringement on Native American tribal treaty rights. The Wasco County decision is currently under appeal before the Columbia River Gorge Commission.

“This action is predictable, as they do not wish to respect local, regional and National Scenic Area process. We urge for justice at this level and protection of our communities,” said Arlene Burns, Mayor of Mosier, OR.

The Federal Railroad Administration determined that Union Pacific caused the oil train derailment and fire in Mosier last June by failing to properly inspect and maintain its tracks in the Columbia River Gorge. This latest litigation shows a continued pattern by the railroad to shirk its responsibility to follow federal laws protecting communities and the environment, and to respect tribal treaty rights.

“Columbia River communities are still reeling from the fiery oil train derailment on Union Pacific’s tracks. Union Pacific’s profit-driven lawsuit won’t bully Gorge communities. Even the nation’s biggest railroad must submit to federal laws and treaties with Indian Nations,” stated Lauren Goldberg, Staff Attorney for Columbia Riverkeeper.

"Union Pacific is not above the law. While the railroad wants to quash the rights of communities and sovereign nations, we and our partners will protect and defend the rights of all to a safe and healthy environment," said Regna Merritt of Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility.