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Sierra Club v. BNSF Railway Co.

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20005
Nos. 1:13-cv-00272, (E.D. Wash., 01/02/2014) (Suko, J.)

A district court held that environmental groups may go forward with their CWA lawsuit against a rail carrier for allowing coal dust from open-top rail cars to be released into U.S. waterways. At issue was whether coal dust from rail cars that falls onto land, rather than directly into the waters, offends the CWA. Because the groups alleged that coal dust was released into U.S. waterways, and not just "adjacent to," "over," or "in proximity to" the listed waters, as argued by the carrier, the court determined the groups should have the opportunity at this early stage of the litigation to develop facts that will allow their claim to either stand or fall, based on the statutory definition of a point source discharge. As part of their case, the groups will need to show that the carrier illegally introduced pollutants into navigable waters without a permit.