A federal appeals court says an Alaska Railroad permit to discharge storm water into Resurrection Bay at Seward does not cover coal that falls into ocean water from a conveyor belt.

In an opinion filed Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a District Court decision and ruled that coal falling from a loading facility would violate the Clean Water Act.

The lawsuit was filed by the Alaska Community Action on Toxics and the Sierra Club in December 2009.

A spokesman for the railroad did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sierra Club volunteer Russ Maddox in a statement from Seward says he hopes the decision will spur the railroad to install pollution controls to prevent harm to the bay.