Coal Trains: If Otter Creek coal is mined, Bozeman will see an increase in train traffic on the BNSF/Montana Rail Link track from 15 to 31 trains a day. Coal trains are 1 to 1.5 miles long with 100 to 150 cars each. With rail line expansion, it could rise to 33 trains of coal for Asia by 2022.
Increase in response times for emergency services of police, fire, and ambulance, increase property insurance and health care costs, too. There are especially long waits of 45 minutes or more where trains stop to add engines to be able to get over Bozeman Pass.
Negative health impacts such as higher rates of respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses increase with diesel exhaust from more locomotives, coal dust emissions, and noise pollution from the horns and the heavier trains. Coal dust and derailments could impact water. Coal contains: arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium, selenium, nickel, vanadium, carcinogenic hydrocarbons (benzene-ring derivatives), and radioactive elements. Burning releases CO2, nitrous oxides and sulfur dioxide.
Profitable Coal Traffic Forces Passenger, Grain, and Container Cars to other more expensive train routes, slower routes, or to trucking, adversely affecting consumers and business.
Train Traffic hurts wildlife, tourism (many hotels near tracks), property values, quality of life.
Increased noise from train horns: Creating Quiet Zones with directional horns, computerized sensing systems, additional gates, lights, signs, fences, cost between $700,000 to up to $8 million per crossing. (report to Bozeman City Commission) Overpasses can cost $100 million. Companies profiting don’t pay more than 10%, citizens pay the rest, increasing taxes.
Train derailment more frequent, polluting, and costly: Derailments occur more often on tracks carrying coal, in part due to the heavy weight of the trains (143 tons per car), and the dust and surfactant on the tracks. Coal dust prevents water from draining from trackbeds, pushing these rails out of gauge, causing derailment. In 2005-2007 there were 20 coal train derailments costing $4.8 million.
Taxpayers foot the bill, Companies profit: Historically, railroads have been accorded extraordinary rights (i.e. eminent domain) and protections (i.e. exempt from paying more than 10% of costs related to safety and the mitigation of adverse affects due to rail usage). Current NW tracks (4000 miles) are at or near capacity. The required upgrading and expansion of railroad tracks and related infrastructure could likely cost state and local governments billions of dollars in related costs. Plus, Wyoming coal won’t contribute to the Montana Coal Fund.
Coal Burning and Climate: In 2011, coal was responsible for about 17% of all US CO2 emissions, mostly for electrical generation. (US Energy Information Administration) We have capacity left for only 565 gigatons of CO2 to be added to our atmosphere before it traps so much heat, global temperatures will exceed the even marginally ‘safe’ global rise of 3.6˚F over pre-industrial levels. (“Terrifying Math”, Bill McKibben) The low energy content, sub-bituminous coal we ship to China to burn can come back to us on toxic winds in 5-7 days. (NOAA)
References: Coal Train Facts http://www.coaltrainf..., heavytrafficahead.org/pdf/Heavy-Traffic-Ahead-web.pdf, http://lakependoreill... Northern Plains Resource Council, MEIC, and MT Conservation Voters factsheets.
Action: Join the local Bozeman Community Coal Action (551-0388), or Bozeman Climate Alliance.
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