EarthFix | Oregon Public Broadcasting, December 20, 2013
Contributed by Ashley Ahearn
SEATTLE – A federal board has ruled that the coal companies operating in the Powder River Basin have to take certain measures to reduce the amount of dust that is escaping from coal train cars.
The Surface Transportation Board, a federal body responsible for overseeing safety and business disputes in the transportation sector, ruled that coal companies must ensure that coal is loaded into the train cars in a ‘bread loaf’ shape to prevent the coal from spilling over the tops of the cars. The board also said that coal companies must apply one of five approved ‘topper agents,’ or sprays, on top of the coal cars to tamp down the dust and that they are responsible for the added cost of applying the toppers, which can cost $.10 to $.75 per ton of coal.
The ruling comes after more than three years of debate between the coal companies and the rail companies over the problem of coal dust escaping from trains.
“This approval is consistent with the agency’s past ruling that BNSF could require measures be taken to reduce coal dust,” said Courtney Wallace, a spokesperson with BNSF Railway. Wallace called the move an “important milestone” in ensuring that coal dust stays in rail cars.