Tuesday, November 22, 2011

STB denies mediation in BNSF coal dust case

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The Surface Transportation Board issued a decision Tuesday denying a petition of the Western Coal Traffic League (WCTL) asking the Board to institute mediation on a new coal dust tariff issued by BNSF Railway. Instead, the decision is instituting a new proceeding “to consider the reasonableness of the new tariff’s safe harbor provision.”


stb_logo.jpgIn a previous decision, the Board found that a BNSF tariff intended to limit the amount of coal dust that blows off of rail cars during transit was “an unreasonable practice.” It was in response to a new BNSF coal dust tariff that WCTL asked the Board to reopen the proceeding and institute mediation between BNSF and coal shippers.

On July 20, BNSF issued its new tariff addressing coal dust emission from trains carrying coal loaded at any Powder River Basin mine and requiring that shippers of such coal take measures to reduce coal dust loss from cars. To comply with the tariff, shippers could use the “safe harbor” provision, under which shippers would apply one of BNSF’s three approved suppression methods to their cars and be in compliance with the tariff regardless of actual coal dust release.

As an alternative to the safe harbor provision, shippers may submit a different suppression method for approval by BNSF. Under the new tariff, shippers were to begin taking these measures by Oct. 1.