Press release: Washington state to include Montana rail traffic in review of coal port – Feb. 12, 2014

February 12, 2014

Categories: Coal, News, Northern Plains Resource Council

By Northern Plains Resource Council

BILLINGS, Mont. — The Washington Department of Ecology announced today it will include the impacts of coal train traffic in Montana as part of its review for a proposed coal export terminal at Longview, Washington.

Industry and other proponents of the port, which would export Powder River Basin coal from Montana and Wyoming to Asia, had pressured the Department only to look at impacts beginning at the Washington state line and not to include how increased rail traffic would affect Montanans. If built, the Longview port would be the largest coal export terminal in North America, exporting up to 44 million metric tons of coal per year.

“Increased rail traffic will have serious impacts in communities across Montana, such as increased health and safety risks,” said Livingston City Commissioner Adam Stern. “In Livingston it will lead directly to increased traffic delays and decreased economic productivity. I hope we will all be able to work together to solve some of these issues for Montana’s citizens.”

The Livingston City Commission is one of several in Montana that submitted comments asking for Montana to be included in the draft environmental review. The group of towns was joined by state legislators, several county health boards, and hundreds of individual Montanans.

While the Department of Ecology’s scope will include the impacts of coal train traffic, it will not include the impacts of increased coal mining and the condemnation of Montana ranches for the construction of the proposed coal-hauling Tongue River Railroad in southeastern Montana.

Northern Plains Resource Council, a conservation and family agriculture group based in Billings, welcomed the decision to include Montana.

“While it’s good to see many impacts to Montana included, we still have a ways to go to make sure that our ranching and agricultural interests are taken under full consideration in light of the drastic impacts increased mining would have on Montana and Wyoming,” said Dawson Dunning, a Northern Plains Resource Council member whose family has ranched near the proposed Otter Creek coal mine for generations. “Any review of these ports needs to take a harder look at the survival of ranching communities like ours.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the other lead agency reviewing the proposed coal port, is conducting a separate study. It decided not to listen to Montanans who asked that the state be included in its review.

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