Bozeman Chronicle editorial: Train traffic could have ill effects for Bozeman – April 5, 2012

April 9, 2012

Categories: Coal, Events, News, Newspaper editorial, Northern Plains Resource Council

Coal mined from one of the largest coal deposits in the world could more than triple the amount of train traffic that goes through Bozeman in the coming years.

Communities in eastern Montana and Wyoming would benefit from a coming coal boom that some see shaping up. Cities on the West Coast and Asian nations would benefit from the bounty of energy that coal would produce.

But what would Bozeman get?

Instead of the average of 15 trains that go through town now, some 40 additional 120- to 125-car trains could cross the city, affecting hundreds of homes, condos and businesses that sit on or near the tracks.

And that volume of trains could affect everyone in the city, with increases in diesel exhaust, coal dust and major disruptions of automobile traffic at street crossings. The traffic disruptions could force the construction of overpasses or underpasses at considerable expense to local taxpayers.

And it could be happening soon. Coal companies in the Powder River Basin, beneath which lies an immense deposit of coal, are planning to ship 110 million tons of coal to Asia by the year 2015.

State and local leaders need to get out in front of this issue now.

Opportunities for regulating the train traffic must be gauged. Possibilities for making the railroads and coal companies contribute to the cost of building new infrastructure to deal with the increased train traffic must be explored.

Any efforts on the part of the state to regulate this activity will likely run into federal interstate commerce laws that will favor the railroads. But where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Negotiations with the coal firms and railroads could produce agreements that will mitigate the effects. More strict laws governing noise and air pollution could also change the ways the railroads get the coal to potential markets.

But if we wait until the problem descends on us, it will be too late. The time to get informed is now.

The Northern Plains Resource Council is conducting an informational meeting on the potential effects of coal shipping at 7 p.m. April 26 in the Bozeman Public Library.

This is a meeting worth attending for everyone in Bozeman.


220 South 27th Street, Suite A
Billings, Montana 59101
(406) 248-1154