Coal Trains Threaten Environment and Public Health

by Nick Gier (versions of this column have appeared in the Dec. 2nd Idaho State Journal and in the Nov. 16th Daily News)

A friend of mine just bought a condo overlooking Bellingham Bay, and she knew
full well that the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) tracks were 70 feet below her
balcony. Later she discovered that each day three to four coal trains—125 cars, two
locomotives in front and two in back—pass by with ear splitting horns sounding at every
crossing. They are headed for Roberts Bank, B. C., where huge coal freighters are loaded
for shipment to Asia. The empty trains—just as noisy and still shedding coal dust—
trundle back from the border.

If the coal industry and SSA Marine have their way, the nation’s largest coal
terminal will be built at Cherry Point, just north of Bellingham, where 225,000 barrels
of oil are already refined each day. Over the next decade the coal industry wants to run
up to 68 additional trains from southeastern Montana and northeastern Wyoming
through the rail “funnel” at Sandpoint, Idaho and Spokane, Washington. Read the entire PDF column about coal trains