Environmentalists Sue, Say Coal is Flying Into Washington Water

By Tom Bacon

The fight over hauling long trainloads of coal through Washington to west coast terminals will escalate as environmental groups sue a railroad and coal producers for allegedly dumping coal into state waterways.

Several conservation groups  - the Sierra Club, the Puget Soundkeepers Alliance, the Columbia Riverkeepers and others - charge that the B-N-S-F railroad and big coal producers discharge chunks of coal, dust and other pollutants into state waters from rail cars that transport the fuel through Washington.

The groups have notified the railroad and coal producers that they plan to file the citizen lawsuit under the federal Clean Water Act.

The suit will claim that the trains and rail cars are "point sources" of pollution requiring permits under the federal law.

In the meantime, officials from Whatcom County, the Washington Department of Ecology and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have waded through huge stacks of public comments - more than 100-thousand of them - on a plan to build a bulk-cargo terminal at Cherry Point to handle the coal exports.

The agencies will use the information to write an Environmental Impact Statement on the terminal, a job that could take another year to complete.
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