Rather than wage a prolonged legal battle that could possibly end with it on the hook for massive damages, BNSF Railways has reached a settlement agreement with seven environmental groups that contend the railroad has polluted Washington’s rivers due to coal dust from its coal shipments.
BNSF has admitted no wrongdoing, but has agreed to pay $1 million in support of environmental clean-up projects in Bellingham, Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Spokane River.
The seven environmental groups, which included the Sierra Club and National Resources Defense Council, first sued BNSF in 2013, alleging that the freight railroad violated the federal Clean Water Act.
The settlement heads off lawsuits that alleged trillions of dollars of damages that came from the dust that blew off open-topped hopper cars.
The railroad has also agreed to study the use of physical covers for coal and petroleum coke trains in order to reduce or eliminate the source of the pollution.
“This puts them on a path to the ultimate solution to stop the discharge of coal into our nation’s waterways,” said Charlie Tebbutt, who is the lead attorney representing the environmental groups.
© 2017 David Mazor
Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.