Wally Wonders Why No editor, no publisher, you get what you get

May 4, 2011

For or Agin’ Coal Trains

Do I have to admire RE-Sources dedication to the envirionment even if I feel like they are lyin’ through their teeth?

According to BNSF we already have 6 coal trains per day coming through our county on their way to Point Roberts and RE-Sources says that when the SSA Gateway Terminal is opened then the coal pollution from the predicted 18 trains per day will be intolerable.

…these 15,000-ton trains will lose three percent of their load in transit or 1,780,000 short tons of coal dust spread annually from the Powder River Basin to the terminal.  RE-Sources

If the number of trains we see running through here triples then we will be seeing triple the pollution also right?  And that’s got to be really bad, right?

Well, no not exactly.  I just checked along the tracks and see no evidence of coal pollution, nothing dead or blackened.  Things were mostly green and spring like from all that I could see.  So three times no pollution to speak of  is still no pollution to speak of.  So I’m left with no alternative but to believe that it is RE-Sources and not the trains that are blowing coal dust.

However, regardless of how much I feel RE-Sources is blowing coal dust to the public regarding coal pollution, I find myself somewhat on the same side of the SSA terminal proposal.  I’m in favor of a cargo terminal at Cherry Point and I’m not opposed to it’s primary cargo being coal.  But I am opposed to this proposal because the primary customer for the coal is not within our nation, it is China.  Run a coal train right out to Cherry Point on their  way to Alaska, Oregon, California and I’ll happy wave to them as they rumble by,  but don’t ship US coal to a foreign nation.

…a lumbering BNSF coal train for you viewing

Because we live in a world currently powered primarily by fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and oil, and because a good portion of the suppliers of crude oil are unstable and openly hostile towards our nation, I consider all US fossil fuels to be strategic reserves.  If and/or when the Middle East becomes too unstable or radioactive to supply us with oil, I for one, would like to still be sitting on a large pile of coal. Our national leaders haven’t come to this realization yet, and started addressing it with legislation, but they will. 

I’m not in favor of a coal port to China, but neither am I in favor of the RE Sources environmental political speak. 


  1. You are absolutely entitled to your opinion but you should know that the figures we quoted about coal dust along the entire route come from BNSF’s own website. We did not manufacture these claims. What we will see here, along specific runs of track depends on load configuration, train speed, wind, and a whole host of factors. Our concerns about coal dust relation more to water pollution and food chain disruption than human health. The human health issues relate more to the diesel particulate levels associated with nearly 27,000 additional locomotive trips through downtown Bellingham. While we will probably disagree on many elements of the project, please do not fault us for BNSFs numbers.

    Comment by Bob Ferris — May 5, 2011 @ 10:44 am

  2. I know the figures you quoted came directly from BNSF and that you didn’t manufacture them, but you did misrepresent them and in my family we call that lying. First there is a distinct difference between your “trains will lose three percent of their load” and BNSF’s ” as much as 3% of the coal loaded into a coal car can be lost in transit.” Will lose and can lose are different. Also when you say that the dust will be spread between there and here, the implication is that we will see the same amount of coal dust over the last mile of the journey as the first mile, which is again misrepresenting the truth, again lying in our home. Also neglect to convey that the coal dust volumes you quoted are numbers that are likely 5 or more years old, from before BNSF had made and is still making significant improvements.
    I’m not saying that any coal dust either here nor there is a good thing, but I am saying that my read of the same facts and a look at local tracks that carry coal trains tell me that coal residue along our section of tracks will not be as big of a problem as you make it out to be.

    Comment by wally — May 6, 2011 @ 5:22 am

  3. Wally, if there is no dust problem, why do they have special small trains that go along and attempt to clean up the tracks after the trains pass? Why don’t you film one of those, or google them, then your information will be more informed.

    Comment by Shaun — June 26, 2011 @ 6:19 pm

  4. Really, the railroad has little trains going through our county specifically to clean coal dust from the tracks? Seems a waste, as there isn’t any coal to speak of along any of the tracks nor surrounding areas that I’ve seen.

    Comment by wally — June 29, 2011 @ 6:21 pm

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