Letters to the Editor

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COAL: Trains endangered by coal dust on tracks

Letter by Clifford D. Allo, Puyallup on Jan. 8, 2013 at 12:50 pm with No Comments »
January 8, 2013 1:00 pm

Re: “Coal train issue draws scrutiny over traffic, air” (TNT, 1-8).

Ten thousand ton coal trains will place enormous burdens on our community. At our December 2012, the 25th Legislative District Democrats adopted a resolution reflecting our concerns.

Since then we have learned that these trains not only threaten our peace, quiet, comfort and convenience but also the safety of our communities and our national defense.

Open coal cars leak coal and coal dust that foul the ballast supporting the track. Burlington Northern Santa Fe has already experienced derailments when coal-dust fouled tracks combined with precipitation.

If only coal trains derailed, those wrecks would be an inconvenience and an environmental hazard, but the tracks the coal trains will damage also carry other trains. The wreck of an Amtrak or Sounder train would kill and maim passengers. The wreck of a freight train carrying industrial chemicals could injure and kill anyone downwind of the derailment, devasting our communities. And derailments anywhere near Joint Base Lewis-McChord could impair the Army’s ability to move its tanks and other heavy equipment.

Following its derailments, BNSF funded research and sought to require its shippers to control their coal dust but received limited support from regulators. The safety of our communities depends upon effective regulation of shippers so that they cannot impose costs and dangers upon our communities.

Because the BNSF tracks traverse the entirety of Washington, we need all of our congressional delegation to help BNSF control its shippers, not only to protect its track but to protect our safety.

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