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Environmental groups file suit against coal shippers

The Sierra Club and allied groups filed suit in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Wednesday against Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. (BSNF) and several coal companies for alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act.

The environmental groups, concerned by the prospect of increased coal exports through the Columbia River Gorge and elsewhere in the Northwest, earlier sent a 60-day notice of their intent to file the suit after collecting evidence of coal emitted into waterways in several Washington locations.

Other groups joining the suit are Puget Soundkeeper, Columbia Riverkeeper, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities and Friends of the Columbia Gorge.

BSNF Railway hauls coal bound for British Columbia through Washington on an average of 4 trains a day containing 480 open rail cars.

There are three pending proposals for new coal export ports that might send an additional 42 trains daily through the Northwest.

Supporters of the coal export projects called the lawsuit a delay tactic that won't hold up in court.

"Sierra Club's lawsuit is meritless and nothing more than a publicity stunt meant to stop the permitting of multicommodity export terminals in the Pacitic Northwest," BNSF said in a prepared statement.