EcoWatch: Cutting Edge Environmental News Service
April 3, 2013
BNSF Railway, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, is one of the largest coal transporters in the U.S. It is responsible for hauling an average of 480 open-top rail cars carrying coal through Washington daily. In addition to posting a report to its own website, BNSF also testified at hearings before the Surface Transportation Board that each rail car loses an average of 500 pounds of coal dust per trip. Current coal trains are composed of approximately 120 rail cars, resulting in an average of 30 tons of coal being lost per train trip. Longer trains are expected in the future should new export terminals be built.
“BNSF and other railroads haul coal around the U.S. every day. Coal shippers and railroads know that coal pollution of our waterways is a serious problem and yet for years we’ve watched them point the finger about who pays to resolve the issue,” said Cesia Kearns, campaign representative of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Exports campaign. “The blame game stops here.”
By BNSF’s own figures, the four daily coal trains traveling through Washington heading to Canada or to the state’s last remaining coal plant combine to lose a staggering 120 tons of coal dust per day. Local residents and conservation groups are concerned that the problem will only worsen if coal companies receive approval to move forward with their hotly contested plan to develop five coal export sites in Washington and Oregon, which could send an additional 60 trains through Washington daily.
Coal mined in the Powder River Basin located in Wyoming and Montana breaks apart easily and contains mercury, arsenic, uranium and hundreds of other heavy metal toxins harmful to fish and human health. Under the Clean Water Act, anyone dumping pollutants or fill into U.S. waters must first obtain what is known as a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit or a Section 404 dredge and fill permit.