Railroads attempt to reduce coal dust emissions

Dec 31, 2013

Coal dust emissions from trains could be cut following a recent ruling by the federal Surface Transportation Board. The Board ruled earlier this month that rail companies can require use of dust suppressants or ‘toppers’ on coal cars.

BNSF was one of the companies pushing for the rule. Spokeswoman Courtney Wallace says coal dust has been shown to foul the tracks and lead to accidents.

“And so we’ve started looking at and doing a lot of field testing, doing a lot of research into coal dust mitigation efforts, and that’s how we can up with our rule, where if you use the approved topping agents plus with the way it’s loaded, it very much reduces issues with coal dust not only at the mines, but anywhere along the tracks.”

Wallace says using suppressants cuts emissions from the trains by at least 85 percent. Without suppressants, individual train cars can lose hundreds of pounds of coal in transit.