Under a lawsuit settlement, BNSF Railway will clean up coal and petroleum coke spilled from open-top freight cars.
BNSF Railway will clean up coal and petroleum coke spilled from open-top freight cars, and study the feasibility of covering these loads under a consent decree filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle with environmental groups.
The agreement resolves a Clean Water Act lawsuit that the Sierra Club, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, Columbia Riverkeeper and four other environmental groups brought against BNSF for the dust and other discharges from these open-top train cars as they traverse the Pacific Northwest.
The settlement also requires BNSF to pay $1 million to finance environmental projects in Washington state, including in the Bellingham, Puget Sound, Columbia River and Spokane River areas.
BNSF spokeswoman Courtney Wallace said the $1 million settlement is small compared with initial lawsuits that sought trillions of dollars. The original allegations were sweeping and unfounded, she said
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During a November 2016 trial, scientists testifying on behalf of the plaintiffs stated that coal particles coming off rail cars dumped mercury, arsenic and other pollutions into waterways, according to a statement released Friday by the environmental groups involved in the lawsuit.
Petroleum coke is a solid product produced by oil refiners that also is transported in open-top trail cars.
“This settlement rightfully places the burden of cleaning up contamination from coal trains with the company responsible for the pollution, and it will also lead the way in affirming technologies to prevent coal from entering waterways in the future,” said Cesia Kearns, deputy regional campaign director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, in the statement released by the plaintiffs.