The Oregonian, April 2, 2013
By Scott Learn
LYLE, Wash. — At the railroad berm that divides Horsethief Lake from the Columbia River, you can stick your hand between the rocks and come up with fistfuls of crumbly coal-black pebbles and dust.
For the Sierra Club and other environmental groups, such spots are Exhibit A in their case against coal export from Northwest ports.
Today, five environmental groups filed their biggest legal blast so far, warning BNSF Railway and six coal companies that they plan to sue them in 60 days in federal court for violating the Clean Water Act. If successful, the challenge would require coal trains to have water-pollution permits for the first time.
The club has had Liberte Environmental Associates test at nine sites near tracks and the river in the Columbia River Gorge, with additional testing pending along Puget Sound.
It is coal, the lab reports say. The environmental groups say it’s the byproduct of about four uncovered coal train trips a day through Washington’s side of the gorge to a coal-fired power plant in Centralia and export terminals in British Columbia.