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Hysteria and Misinformation – Coal Train Fight Continued | FreedomWorks

As I posted earlier, coal producers are trying to secure approval to ship Powder River Basin (PRB) coal overseas to Asian markets, while environmental extremists are attempting to make this the Spotted Owl fight of modern times. The environmental movement has established this as their beachhead, and are pulling out all the stops. Their long track record of fear mongering and hysteria masquerading as science gives them the experience and good old fashioned know-how to be able to stop economic progress in its tracks. The coal train fight is turning into the battle royale for environmental zealots to stop the expansion of the energy industry.

The environmental groups opposing this effort have formed a coalition called Power Past Coal, which has been promoting all sorts of supposed effects of coal trains rolling through the Pacific Northwest to our ports. The biggest effect, they claim, will come from coal dust that blows off of open train cars. A typical freight train will likely haul 100-150 coal cars. Environmentalists cite industry estimates that such a train may lose up to 1 ton of coal dust in any one trip. For example, in a white paper for the Sightline Institute, environmental activist Eric de Place says,

Coal dust escapes from the open-top rail cars used for transporting coal and can create safety and congestion problems for rail traffic. In 2005, for example, coal dust that had accumulated in ballast, the layer of crushed rock that supports rail tracks, caused two derailments. Coal dust deposits sometimes even cause spontaneous fires.

The Burlington Northern / Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) has studied the problem and found that as much as a ton of coal can escape from a single loaded coal car, while other reports show that as much as 3 percent of a coal car’s load, which is typically 100 tons or more, can blow away in transit. The US Department of Transportation classifies coal dust as a “pernicious ballast foulant” that can weaken and destabilize rail tracks. It is not clear how much coal dust might escape in the Pacific Northwest, but one watchdog group has verified that coal and coal dust does escape from open rail cars traveling along Puget Sound coastlines.

That last sentence, “… one watchdog group has verified that coal and coal dust does escape from open rail cars traveling along Puget Sound coastlines”, refers to a media report from KING 5 News in Seattle. Funny thing is that they don’t state how much coal or coal dust has been found along the tracks – a line that has been used to ship coal to British Columbia for many years with no complaints or problems.

View northeast across the Deckers coal mine an...

View northeast across the Deckers coal mine and the Tongue River in the Powder River Basin, southeastern Montana. Typical terrain of unglaciated Missouri Plateau. Small mesas with cliffed escarpments on capping layer of resistant sandstone, such as those in the foreground, are common. Coal mine is about 1 mile across. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Read the full post here: Hysteria and Misinformation – Coal Train Fight Continued | FreedomWorks.

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2 Comments

  1. MaxRedline's Gravatar MaxRedline
    April 29, 2013    

    It’s worth noting as well that PRB coal has been transported regularly by train to the PGE plant in Boardman with no issues regarding coal dust. As it happens, the coal in each car is sprayed prior to departure to minimize dust.

    • admin's Gravatar admin
      April 29, 2013    

      Well of course it is. The industry doesn’t profit from derailments caused by dust in the track ballast, so they self corrected – no government regulation required.

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