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COAL: Let’s be realistic about trains and coal

Letter by Joe V. Peterson, Tacoma, and Thomas Payne, Parkland on June 14, 2012 at 12:03 pm | 14 Comments »
June 15, 2012 12:51 pm

Re: “Reject plan for coal export terminals” (Your Voice, 6-12).

The author’s naivete is startling. Let’s be realistic about neighbors, trains and coal.

• Coal is a legal product.

• Railways have an obligation under U.S. law to deliver freight.

• Wyoming and Montana mines have high-quality low sulfur coal to sell.

• China has a need for coal. It will buy it, either from U.S. and Canadian low-sulfur, high Btu quality coals or continue to burn the high-sulfur, low Btu quality coals it uses now, with its attendant environmental effects.

• Coal ports in Canada are planning to double their capacities. They will take all the tonnage offered.

• With no port here, the trains will go to Canada, adding hundreds of miles to the transport, all with attendant environmental costs.

• The Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad has adopted tested and proven Canadian standards for reducing coal train dust. Research and decades of practice prove they work.

• There is adequate rail capacity to handle the trains.

• U.S. small investors and pension funds buy railway and coal mine stocks for the constant and steady long-term dividends they pay, as well as their preservation of value.

• Communities in Washington state have a record of turning down wind farms, tidal energy, solar power, thermal energy and new hydro. China, in fact, is the biggest builder of wind and solar power.

(Peterson is an instructor of ethics with Pierce College Military College Programs. Payne is a locomotive engineer and member of the Canadian Railroad Hall of Fame.)

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