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Morgan Wyenn’s Blog

Conservation groups' lawsuit against BNSF for coal dust pollution moves forward!

Morgan Wyenn

Posted March 14, 2014 in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment

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For years and years, trains have crisscrossed the country carrying coal from coal mines to destinations throughout the U.S.  Along the way, the trains travel on tracks alongside waterways and over bridges, traversing some of our country’s most beautiful and beloved rivers and streams. 

And, as has been the case for years, the rail cars carrying the coal are uncovered.  They are basically big tubs of coal, with no lid.  And, as one would expect, chunks of coal and coal dust flies off the top along the route, often landing in the nearby waterways. 

NRDC joined forces with the Sierra Club, Puget Soundkeeper, Columbia Riverkeeper, Spokane Riverkeeper, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, and Friends of the Columbia Gorge to bring a lawsuit against the BNSF Railway Company, to get them to clean up the mess their coal trains are causing to waterways in Washington State.  The lawsuit was brought in both the Western District and the Eastern District Federal Court in Washington, since the waterways are in both the western and eastern parts of the state.  BNSF asked both courts to dismiss the case, but as this week, both courts issued rulings denying BNSF’s request.

The first ruling came from the Eastern District Court in January, and the second ruling came from the Western District Court on Wednesday.  This is great news, as this means that we can now move forward with arguing our case that BNSF is violating the Clean Water Act when its trains pollute coal and coal dust into our lakes, rivers, and streams.  We will keep you updated as the case proceeds!

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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