Enviro Groups Strike Deal Over
by Steve Law
Both sides agree to table trial court proceedings while a final agreement is forged
In the midst of a Seattle trial involving coal dust blowing off from BSNF Railway cars, the parties have agreed to a deal that will put the trial on hold.
A coalition of environmental groups and BNSF Railway announced a tentative deal Tuesday, Nov. 15, that will require the railroad company to fund a two-year study of methods for covering coal trains. The railway also would agree to pay $1 million for conservation or restoration projects in Washington, and clean up and remove coal and/or petcoke at specific areas near water bodies most imperiled by coal dust.
Currently, rail cars carry coal in open-bed cars, and wind blows coal dust along the route. Such trains routinely travel through the Columbia River Gorge.
A coalition of environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Puget Soundkeeper, Columbia Riverkeeper, Spokane Riverkeeper, RESources for Sustainable Communities, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and Friends of the Columbia Gorge sued BNSF in 2013 under the federal Clean Water Act.
"For decades, coal from BNSF trains has been polluting our rivers, lakes, and seas," said Cesia Kearns, deputy regional campaign director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, in a prepared statement. "This agreement recognizes that and holds BNSF accountable for its impact on our communities' health and environment."
"We now have an agreement in principle with BNSF that should lead to an end to coal pollution in the Columbia River Gorge and cleanup of coal along the Columbia River," said Michael Lang, conservation director for Friends of the Columbia Gorge. "Importantly, the court will retain jurisdiction to ensure that the terms of the agreement are enforced."
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