Courtney Wallace, regional director of public affairs for BNSF Railway, recently spoke with Mike Fitzsimmons on his popular 920 Newscope show on KXLY Radio in Spokane. Wallace and Fitzsimmons spent the hour discussing trains carrying coal through Spokane, with an emphasis on ways that BNSF railway is working to improve rail safety.
As Wallace said upfront, BNSF has spent a significant amount of time studying coal dust, noting that the railroad “has been on the forefront of studying coal dust for over a decade.” She went on to talk about BNSF’s efforts to regulate coal dust, including using a topping agent to coat the coal loads, as well as the shape of the coal cars, which are strategically formed like bread loaf pans to regulate dust. BNSF’s re-spray facilities, like the one in Pasco, apply a glue-like topping agent that helps reduce coal dust by at least 85 percent.
Fitzsimmons, a self-professed train enthusiast, mentioned that he had spent substantial time watching trains with his children, and had never noticed any evidence of coal dust along the rail line. Recounting a recent outing, he said there was “fresh snow on the ground, pure white as it was. Coal train comes through at mainline speed, I couldn’t see a speck of anything on that snow.”
Above all, Wallace emphasized that BNSF railway has an exemplary history of rail safety and environmental stewardship, working to keep communities safe and clean. “Our record on moving hazardous materials from point A to point B without any incident is 99.987%,” she said.
The railways are community partners in the Spokane area and across Washington. As Wallace noted, BNSF employs nearly 4,000 men and women in Washington, and 500 in the greater Spokane area alone. The railroads are an integral part of the state’s economy, and they take safety and environmental compliance seriously.