Sierra Club Continues Fight to Stop Illegal Coal Discharges into Alaskan Bay
January 12, 2011
On January 10, 2011, Sierra Club and Alaska Community Action on Toxics cleared a legal hurdle when a federal judge ruled that their lawsuit may proceed challenging unlawful discharges of coal dust and debris into Resurrection Bay from a coal ship-loading facility in Seward, Alaska.
Due to inadequate pollution controls, the facility routinely spills coal dust and debris into Resurrection Bay from a conveyor system used to load coal onto ships for export to Asia and Chile. Coal dust also blows off the facility’s two massive coal stockpiles into the Bay, covering charter boats, other vessels and nearby neighborhoods. These coal issues have been a nuisance and health risk to the Seward community and the Bay’s marine life for years. The Court rejected the facility's motion to dismiss the lawsuit and ruled that the case may proceed on the merits.
The Sierra Club and Alaska Community Action on Toxics are represented by Trustees for Alaska and Sierra Club attorneys Aaron Isherwood and Peter Morgan.
January 12, 2010
On December 28, 2009, Alaska Community Action on Toxics and Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against Alaska Railroad Corporation and Aurora Energy Services for failing to address illegal discharges of coal dust and debris from their ship-loading facility into Resurrection Bay, in violation of the Clean Water Act.
Coal ship in Seward, Alaska. Photo courtesy Sierra Club volunteer Russ Maddox.
November 17, 2009
On October 29, 2009, the Sierra Club and various local groups put Alaska Railroad Corporation and Aurora Energy Services on notice for unlawfully discharging coal dust and debris from their coal ship-loading facility into Resurrection Bay. The loading facility is located in the coastal town of Seward, Alaska – the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park. The facility stores coal that is transported to Seward and loaded via conveyors onto ships for export to other countries.
Seward residents have been suffering for years from the coal dust that blows through their town from the coal loading facility. Local residents are very concerned about the health threat posed by the facility; chronic inhalation of coal dust can cause a variety of respiratory illnesses, such as bronchitis and emphysema. The coal dust, which is released directly from the facility and generated when the coal is loaded onto ships, is also contaminating Resurrection Bay. The coal dust poses a serious risk to marine ecosystems and charter boat owners on the bay are forced to spend hours each week cleaning coal dust from their boats.
The notice letter, filed by Trustees for Alaska on behalf of Sierra Club, Alaska Center for the Environment, and Alaska Community Action on Toxics, highlights how Alaska Railroad and Aurora Energy are violating the Clean Water Act by allowing unpermitted discharges from the facility into the bay. Alaska Railroad and Aurora Energy now have 60 days to address the unpermitted discharges from the facility before the environmental groups file a lawsuit.
Coal dust covers the North shore of Seward Harbor. Photos courtesy Sierra Club volunteer Russ Maddox.
Details and Documents:
Seward Coal Terminal
Ground Truth Trekking web site
Seward Residents Pleased That Court Decides to Move Forward With Case Over Coal Storage Facility's Pollution Problems
January 11, 2011, Sierra Club et al. Press Release
Court Order Denying Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
January 10, 2011, In the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska
Complaint for Declaratory & Injunctive Relief
December 28, 2009, Alaska Community Action on Toxics & Sierra Club
Notice of Violations and Intent to File Suit under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act
October 28, 2009, Trustees for Alaska et al.
Environmental Lawsuit on Coal Facility to Proceed
January 13, 2011 by Heidi Zemach, Seward City News
Judge allows lawsuit involving Seward coal-dust emissions
Coal dust case proceeds
January 11, 2011, Seward Phoenix Log
Alaska coal creates demand, opposition
January 11, 2011 by Elizabeth Bluemink, Anchorage Daily News
Alaska Railroad to take steps to reduce coal dust in Seward
July 9, 2010 by Mary Pemberton, The Associated Press
Coal dust problem results in lawsuit
December 26, 2010 by Elizabeth Bluemink,
January 7, 2010, The Seward Phoenix Log
Dirty Coal Dust Continues To Be a Problem for Seward Residents
Anchorage Daily News
January 7, 2010, Yubanet.com
Seward residents unhappy about coal dust
November 5, 2009, The Seward Phoenix Log
Conservation groups may sue over Seward coal dust issue
November 5, 2009 by Margaret Bauman, Alaska Journal of Commerce