Environmentalists Outraged Over Increased BNSF Coal Shipments

After hearing that BNSF submitted proposals which would enable their trains to transport coal to ships headed to China, India, Korea, and Japan, environmental groups in Washington are fighting back. According to the Seattle Times, efforts to end the use of coal-fired power plants in the area will have been a waste if freight trains loaded with coal are able to pass through the region anyway.

Because coal is such a profitable export, a fight to block coal shipments can quickly become a battle, especially once corporations like BNSF get involved. Environmentalists fear that the coal dust from the trains will not only pollute the environment, but cause numerous health hazards to Washington residents. Doctors in Whatcom County agreed that more coal dust emissions can lead to even more cases of asthma. Besides health risks, adding more ports to Washington’s coastline could create more diesel fuel emissions, noise pollution, and traffic. And to make matters worse, this endeavor isn’t even producing any jobs for laborers in Spokane, where the trains would run right through the main part of the city

Unfortunately though, even if BNSF decides not to transport the coal, which is unlikely, the Wyoming coal would most likely still travel through Spokane with the coal companies independently seeking permission to add port terminals near Bellingham and Longview enabling them to transport up 130 million tons of coal to the Far East.

If the proposals are approved, port terminals wouldn’t open until 2015 and perhaps by then there will be even more technology to help ease the environmental burden of these coal shipments. And if the ports do get built, hopefully all the companies involved will at least try to promote safer transport methods for their toxic goods.


{ 1 comment }

Jason Mannce October 28, 2011 at 10:21 am

BNSF is demanding Shippers pay to mitigate ‘fugitive’ coal dust (termed by rail as fugitive). BNSF previously claimed some 500 pounds per coal car were lost in transit on the massive Joint Line from Wyoming to the Missippi River. Such losses were proven absurdly high. Yet, at that time it was a key argument that coal shippers – all shippers are responsible for any product lost during transport. BNSF claims their cars lose no coal; only open top Shipper owned cars lose coal. Based on gravity alone the rail owned bottom discharge cars lose far more coal. Further, BNSF is seeking no liability for repairs to land and other damages caused by derailments. BNSF wishes Utilites and Consumers pay for rail line maintance for increased profit after years of lacked or no O&M by BNSF. The US Surface Transportation Board has all BNSF claims on file. Shippers are paying to compact, spray, and / or add tops to rail cars. I am happy to direct to where this information can be found free to the public.

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