BNSF Responds to “Nuisance” Suit

Below is the response from Burlington Norther Santa Fe (BNSF) regarding the pending suit alleging Clean Water Act violations:

BNSF is committed to preventing coal dust from escaping while in transit. If the parties holding the press conference today are truly interested in controlling coal dust, and not simply political grandstanding, there is a forum where they can help.  We would encourage them to join BNSF in defending its rule, and can send letters supporting the necessity of controlling dust to the Surface Transportation Board and urging the Board to act quickly to confirm BNSF’s rule.  Several utilities filed a proceeding at the STB calling the BNSF coal dust rule an unreasonable practice and the case is still pending today.

BNSF takes its commitment to environmental responsibility very seriously, and we are disappointed in the actions taken today by groups who oppose coal exports. This is nothing more than the threat of a nuisance lawsuit without merit, that is part of an ongoing campaign designed to create headlines to influence the review process for proposed export terminals. BNSF has not been contacted about the samples nor are we aware of any third-party tests confirming that what was found is indeed coal. Millions of tons of coal have been transported through Washington state for more than a century by barge, ship and rail as it has been a major source of fuel beginning with the steam age. There is no indication how long these few samples have been there.

BNSF has also safely hauled coal in Washington for decades. Yet despite the movement of so much coal over such a long period of time, we were not aware of a single coal dust complaint lodged with a state agency in the Northwest or with the railroad until the recent interest in coal export terminals. Even if coal dust had been a concern in the past, BNSF’s new coal loading rules eliminate any concern for the future.  BNSF has recently established coal loading rules that require shippers to take measures to address coal dust when they load the coal cars, including the application of topper agents to the loaded coal.  The topper agents are very effective at preventing coal dust losses from trains in transit.