BNSF Railway Ordered to Pay $400 Million to Swinomish Tribe for Unauthorized Land Use

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BNSF Railway, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, has been ordered to pay $400 million to the Swinomish Tribal Community for the railroad’s continued unauthorized crossing of the tribe’s land in order to reach an oil refinery.

The lawsuit in question was initially filed back in March 2015, asserting that BNSF had breached the terms of a right-of-way easement granted to them by the railroad.

BNSF had offered a settlement sum of $21.7 million, only to have it dismissed by the tribe.

According to the Swinomish Tribe, BNSF had exceeded the agreed limits on train and car crossings outlined in the agreement. The violation was deemed to be conscious and deliberate by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Lasnik, who issued a ruling on March 27. Judge Lasnik also pointed out that this transgression was motivated by the pursuit of profits.

The primary concern of the Swinomish Tribe revolves around the potential risks posed to their waterways by the transportation of oil via trains passing over the Swinomish Channel. This channel acts as a crucial link between Skagit Bay in the south and Padilla Bay in the north. The tribe’s historical treaty rights safeguard their fishing activities, and they are apprehensive that BNSF’s transportation of Bakken crude oil, in a manner and quantity that contravenes the explicit terms of the easement agreement, may jeopardize their way of life. Furthermore, the tribe asserted that BNSF had operated these trains without obtaining their consent or permission.

© 2024 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell a stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

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