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The immediate concern was for life and property. The volunteers of the Mosier Fire District were on the job within minutes. Other help came quickly from local partners, the state, and Union Pacific Railroad. Within a day the fire was contained. Cleanup of the spill continued for several weeks. Assessment of damages and options for mitigating them continued for over a year.

The primary public agencies in Mosier (the City, the Fire District, and the Mosier School) made an early decision that (1) their objectives for mitigation and compensation would be better met through negotiation than through litigation, and (2) negotiation would be more effective if they worked together. They used an intergovernmental agreement to create Team Mosier. Team Mosier had a single purpose: to work with Union Pacific toward a settlement agreement acceptable to the three institutions that delegated to Team Mosier the authority to negotiate on their behalf.

Team Mosier carried out its charge between July 2016 and December 2017 (Go to Team Mosier for details on members and mission):

  • July 2016. Creation of Team Mosier. A board of 10: three representative each from the City, the Fire District, and the School, plus an at-large chairperson.
  • August – October 2016. Fact finding, baseline report, and agreement on process for negotiation. See the report: Train Derailment in Mosier: What Happened, and What Can Union Pacific Railroad Do to Help the Recovery? Negotiators from Team Moser and Union Pacific met to agreement on a process for negotiation.
  • November 2016 – November 2017. Negotiation between Team Mosier and Union Pacific. The Team Mosier negotiating team (three people: the chairperson and two supporting attorneys) met periodically with a similarly composed team from Union Pacific to work through the structure and issues described in the Team Mosier baseline report. More specifically:
  • November 2016 – May 2017. Preliminary discussion and rough drafts.
  • June – July 2017. Team Mosier debates, modifies, and ultimately recommends “letter of offer” to the City, the Fire District, and the Mosier School. The letter of offer describes the terms of a final agreement “in concept.” The councils and boards of these institutions approve the letter of offer, authorizing negotiators to work out a more-detailed agreement consistent with the concepts in the letter
  • August – November 2017. The negotiating teams meet in person and by phone to work out the details of a “final agreement” that would be consistent with the letter of offer. The Team Mosier negotiating team meets with representatives of the City, the Fire District, and the Mosier School as final agreement takes shape in November.
  • December 2017. City, Fire District, and Mosier School approve the agreement. Final agreement approved by the City, the Fire District, and the Mosier School. Union Pacific sends funds to the three institutions, consistent with the terms of the agreement.

Team Mosier defined the structure for the negotiation in its report of October 2016. It defined five categories of problems that the derailment created in Mosier. The settlement addresses each, as follows.

Category 1. Cleanup, remediation, restoration, and compensation related to the known effects of the derailment, spill, and fire

Union Pacific began cleanup operations immediately after the derailment. Its activities included removing damaged rail cars, removing spilled oil and contaminated dirt, making repairs to the City’s sewer treatment plant, compensating the School for its use of its building as a command center, compensating residents for costs to deal with temporary displacement during the incident, and more. Team Mosier monitored these activities and served as an additional voice to Union Pacific about issues related to immediate cleanup and remediation, but most of Union Pacific activities in this category occurred outside of the Team Mosier negotiation and settlement.

Team Mosier did negotiate with Union Pacific on one big issue in this category: restoration of the area damaged by the oil spill and fire. Union Pacific agrees to comply with the conditions described in a concurrent agreement with the City of Mosier regarding the restoration of the natural environment and physical property damaged or impacted by the derailment. The agreement references a Site Restoration Plan developed by stakeholders representing Union Pacific, Oregon Department of Transportation, the City, the Historic Columbia River Highway Advisory Committee, River Tribes (Yakama, Umatilla, Warm Springs, and Nez Perce), and State Historic Preservation Office. The Site Restoration Plan is supplemented by design features, concept drawings, and a work plan set out in the “Mosier Derailment Site Restoration Plan.” The City of Mosier will coordinate with Union Pacific as the Plan is implemented.

Category 2. Identification of, quantification of, and indemnification from currently unknown problems

A big concern of Team Mosier were future problems currently unknown. Negotiation started with a broad discussion of potential problems, but eventually focused on the two: the City’s waste-water (sewage) treatment plant (WWTP), and the quality of groundwater.

As part of cleanup, Union Pacific replaced equipment at the City’s WWTP. Union Pacific agreed to warranty that work. In addition, to deal with potential damages currently unknown, the agreement stipulates that (1) Union Pacific will pay for tests to establish the current baseline operation of the WWTP, and (2) the City of Mosier will provide documentation related to the construction of the WWTP and related piping for the purpose of establishing the condition of the WWTP prior to the derailment. The City will then monitor the WWTP operation. If problems are found they will be brought, as a first step toward resolution, to a committee of Mosier and Union Pacific representatives (called “the Mosier Working Group”) that is created as part of the agreement.

Category 3. Improvements to railroad capital stock and to operations and maintenance procedures that improve safety and, thus, reduce the risk of future derailments and spills in Mosier

Team Mosier tried to deal with future risk by getting Union Pacific to take actions that would reduce the chances of future derailments and spills. The difficulty of that negotiation was that Union Pacific and other railroads operate under a complex set of federal and state regulations.

Union Pacific acknowledges that it is required, willing, and able to comply with those standards. Within a few months of the derailment Union Pacific did many types of inspections and tests, and agreed to a schedule of future inspections. It installed improved fasteners to hold rails to wooden ties on track in the City of Mosier area and at curves throughout the Columbia Gorge.

Team Mosier suggested additional changes to rolling stock and operations (e.g., stronger tank cars, few trains, restrictions on cargos and speeds). Union Pacific would not agree to special standards for Mosier as part of its negotiation with Team Mosier. But Oregon’s senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden used the Mosier incident to work with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to create a Compliance Agreement with Union Pacific that established some additional safety improvements (mainly, additional and more-detailed inspections) for the Columbia Gorge. Union Pacific will submit a report to FRA in December 2019 regarding compliance with the December 2016 FRA Compliance Agreement. A Letter to Team Mosier from Senator Merkeley  thanks Team Mosier for helping to make this agreement possible.

Category 4. Improvements to community disaster- response equipment and procedures to deal with future derailments and spills

Given that federal and state standards for train equipment and operation cannot eliminate the possibility of a derailment, Team Mosier concentrated on getting help from Union Pacific on dealing with potential future disasters, especially fire. Improvements to fire-fighting equipment have benefits to Mosier that go beyond fires that might be caused by railroad operation, and have benefits to Union Pacific by reducing the potential damages and liability from possible future incidents in the eastern Columbia Gorge.

Union Pacific agreed to the following contributions, which were made in December 2017:

  • $250,000 to the Mosier Fire District to purchase fire-fighting equipment of its choosing.
  • $350,000 to the Mosier Fire District for the construction of a pumping system for bringing water from the Columbia River to downtown Mosier.
  • $500,000 to the Mosier Fire District and City of Mosier to partially fund the construction of a future Mosier Fire Station and city facility (referred to in Mosier as the Joint Use Facility).

Category 5. Improvements to community development consistent with Mosier’s vision and plans

Team Mosier asked Union Pacific for contributions that went beyond repairing damage from the derailment or reducing the possibilities or damages of future derailments. Union Pacific agreed to the following contributions, which were made in December 2017:

  • $350,000 to the School for capital projects and improvements.
  • $400,000 to a fund established by the City, Fire District, and School for miscellaneous community projects and obligations, including legal fees incurred in connection with the response to the derailment and the negotiation of a settlement agreement. Team Mosier paid all outstanding obligations (approximately $152,500) in December 2017.
  • $400,000 to a fund established by the City, Fire District, and School for miscellaneous community projects and obligations, including legal fees incurred in connection with the response to the derailment and the negotiation of a settlement agreement. Team Mosier paid all outstanding obligations (approximately $152,500) in December 2017. Team Mosier agreed (in a meeting on 24 July 2017) to divide the remaining $247,500 as follows:
    • 32% to the Mosier Community School (approximately $79,200)
    • 20% to the City of Mosier (approximately $49,500)
    • 20% to the Mosier Fire District (approximately $49,500)
    • 28% to a contingency fund, with future disbursements to be approved by consensus of representatives of the City, Fire District, and School (approximately $69,300)
  • Transfer to the City of Mosier of approximately four acres of Union Pacific property (south of the railroad, north of Highway 30, and adjacent to the City park and Fruit Growers building: estimated value of $245,000).
  • Construction of a wrought iron fence near the transferred property, to separate it from the railroad tracks to the north: estimated value of $250,000.
  • Formal grant of public access and easement at the underpass crossing at Rock Creek. Estimated value of the grant and relocation of water line is $86,000.
  • Commitment to ongoing efforts by Union Pacific to develop capital projects in the Columbia River Gorge focused on providing safe recreational access to the Columbia River.

 

Union Pacific had complied with most of the terms of the agreement by the end of December 2017. In particular, it had wired or sent checks to the City, Fire District, and Community School totaling $1.85 million. In addition, future cash or in-kind payments (as described above, and not counting any of the potential payments related to unknown costs as described in Category 2 or any of the costs of completed or ongoing improvements to safety as described in Category 3) could add another $0.6 to $0.9 million (depending on the details and full cost of implementing the Site Restoration Plan). Going forward, Union Pacific and the Mosier institutions have agreed to appoint representatives to a Mosier Working Group that will monitor and help resolve any issues related to the ongoing implementation of the terms of the agreement.

Team Mosier was created for the sole purpose of negotiating a settlement with Union Pacific on behalf of the City, the Fire District, and the School. In December 2017, an agreement on the settlement was signed by all parties. Team Mosier ensured that funds were transferred, accounts were established, and its expenses were paid. At its final meeting on 21 December 2017, members of Team Mosier unanimously approved the summary of its activities reported on this web page, and agreed that Team Mosier had completed its tasks. Any inquiries about the terms of the agreement should be directed to the City, the Fire District, or the Mosier Community School.