Letter: Thoughtful planning needed for increase in coal trains – Billings Gazette, Nov. 2, 2012

November 2, 2012

Categories: Coal, Letters

http://billingsgazette.com/news/opinion/mailbag/thoughtful-planning-needed-for-increase-in-coal-trains/article_db0a68b0-a1e8-5994-9931-2d17c12859ee.html

The CEO of BNSF, Matthew Rose, claims some critics say 100 export trains a day would pass through Billings. Have those considering the impacts of increased train traffic in Billings ever claimed there would be 100 extra trains here? No. I suppose it’s much easier to discredit those raising questions if you attribute to them false words. Has it been claimed that 57 additional trains would pass though if all the ports were permitted? Yes.

Probably not all the ports will be permitted, but the first three ports under review, backed by massive investment, would total 110 million tons a year, or at least 35 extra trains a day, empty and loaded.

Rose, after admitting the possibility of 100 million tons, projected an increase of only eight to 12 or 14 trains a day, and said they would not necessarily go through Billings. However, all BNSF trains taking the shortest route from the coal fields to the west coast must go through Billings before there’s a choice near Laurel of BNSF tracks through Great Falls or Montana Rail Link tracks. Rose’s claims about train numbers and routing do not match the facts.

The permitting process will determine what coal mining and shipping might take place. The concern for Billings should be planning how to protect the city and downtown businesses from the impact of many additional trains a day and an even more divided city. Thoughtful planning about needed mitigations and who will pay for them is needed, not misleading hype.

Walter Gulick
Billings

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