by Carl, 12/13/2012, 5:08 PM

I wasn’t able to get off work early so I’m just heading down there now. In the mean time enjoy the NPI twitter feed. I’ll update this when I’m there. I’m sure all of the local big wigs have already had their say.

… You can watch it here if you’re inclined.

… OK. I’ve got here, so far every speaker has been opposed. Tribal people and environmentalists. There are two rooms, so I don’t know what’s going on in the other room. I think more or less the same. When I came here, there was someone who took numbers, and there were over two thousand people up the escalator they had directed us to, one of two.

… We had one person supporting the project, but it’s definitely quite heavily opposed. I forgot to mention it in the last update, but The Backbone people were out in force outside with a giant salmon.

… A lot of the people who speak in opposition live near the tracks. I don’t know if that’s a concerted effort, by the people organizing the opposition or if it’s just that those people are the ones most likely to testify.

… You can tell when people are ringers when they can’t pronounce things like the “Hiram M. Chittenden Locks” or “Salish Sea.”

… The young people speaking know that this is their future.

… In the comments Roger wonders if this is all just window dressing. Maybe, but the thing is that you don’t know what will make the difference. The room is quite full, and it looks like the other one is too.

… We’ve had Christians and now a Druid speaking out against the trains.

… The last comment was made. It was quite anti-train.

21 Responses to “Coal Train Hearing”

1. Roger Rabbit spews:

Thanks for posting the link, Carl. Watching the hearing on my computer sure beats going downtown. I think the coal trains are a bad idea, but I own coal stocks, so at least I’ll make money off them if this bad idea goes forward.

2. YLB spews:

Coal = Death

3. Michael spews:

One of my grand fathers died of black lung. Nasty stuff. The coal companies knew what was making miners sick, they knew how to mitigate it, and they knew it would cost them pennies to do so, so did they do it? Nope they fought tooth and nail and lied, lied, lied, to keep from having to pay to make it so miners didn’t get sick.

When grampa died grandma qualified for black lung survivors benefits. The coal companies fought against having to pay for those too.

Every time coal companies have had to pay to clean up their own messes it’s taken a long, costly, and bitter fight to get them to do it.

The coal companies of today are no different than the coal companies of yesteryear. They’re straight up, plain and simple, sociopathic evil fuckers. If coal exports are allowed, I hope people monkey wrench the railroad tracks.

4. Roger Rabbit spews:

Listening to this, I get a feeling the decision has already been made, this hearing is just window dressing, and the public’s opinion doesn’t count for squat. Can you expect anything else in a country that hasn’t put a single banker in jail for what the bankers did to us?

5. Roger Rabbit spews:

It’s hard for me to see how anyone can make money by digging up coal in Wyoming, moving it by train to Cherry Point, and then by ship across the Pacific Ocean to the country that has the world’s largest coal reserves.

6. Michael spews:

Carl, thanks for showing up for this.

7. Michael spews:

We’ve had Christians and now a Druid speaking out against the trains.

John Michael Greer?

Greer’s pretty badass.

8. Carl spews:


It was a woman, I didn’t get her name.

9. Roger Rabbit spews:

Lots of people speaking from the heart. Unfortunately, the world runs on cold hard cash. But it doesn’t make sense even from that perspective. Australia, which is much closer to China than Wyoming, has lots of coal. How will our coal compete? And how will coal mined by American labor compete with coal dug in China by Chinese labor? I don’t see how the economics work.

10. Brenda Helverson spews:

@4, Roger Rabbit spewed: Listening to this, I get a feeling the decision has already been made, this hearing is just window dressing, and the public’s opinion doesn’t count for squat.

Yup. This decision has already been made in China and our miserable little Country had best fall in line.

Coal trains are now running from Wyoming to Georgia to fuel a huge (and soon to be expanded) power plant. I understand that the trains run about once an hour. I would like to hear from the little communities along that line in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee. It causes me to wonder why the power plant isn’t being built right nest to the coal fields. Power transmission lines are a lot less polluting than coal trains.

@5, Roger again: It’s hard for me to see how anyone can make money by digging up coal in Wyoming . . . .

I suspect that China is bidding more than market value and paying higher transportation costs to obtain this coal.

A new book on copper mining asserts that China is cornering the World copper market because they simply don’t care if another Country pollutes or kills its own people as long as China gets its copper. The author also asserts that China pays top price for raw materials to subsidize their other industries.

Paying a high price gives the railroad and the coal company a financial incentive to push this one through. I also notice TV ads trying to sell us on coal trains – I wonder who is really paying for those ads and how it affects TV news coverage of this event.

There is no right way to do the wrong thing, and plenty of rational people think that this is a stupid idea. Except for the rational part, I’m one of them. But in full response to @3, you’re right. It’s a done deal.

Harry Truman caught a lot of flack for “losing China.”

Is there any way that we could lose them again?

11. Lauramae spews:

Under no circumstances should Cherry Point coal exporting happen. And hopefully people will be committed to doing whatever needs to be done to stop it.

12. Brenda Helverson spews:

My source for the Wyoming-Georgia coal train story is:

John McPhee, Uncommon Carriers (2006) ISBN 9780786290925.

In one of his chapters, McPhee rides this train and write about the experience. I need to read it again with the current situation in mind.

If we are going to be screwed, we might as well read about it first.

13. Brenda Helverson spews:

And my source for the copper story was:

Bill Carter, Boom, bust, boom: a story about copper the metal that runs the world (2012) ISBN 9781439136447

14. ArtFart spews:

In case any of y’all are thinking they’re asking “may we” before the fact, the wife and I came across on the ferry from Kingston Thursday afternoon and after the boat docked we got to sit and watch a mile-long, open-car coal train go by on the way north before we could drive off.

There are two things about all this that are really puzzling, as in “why would they be so effin’ dumb????” to wit:

(1.) If they’re going to be running a coal port at Cherry Point, why the hell can’t they bring the trains over the Cascades via the Empire Builder route over Stevens Pass, bypassing Seattle entirely and coming west to Everett, taking a left turn and going north? The proposed route almost seems deliberately designed to cause maximum disruption to the Sounder and the Cascades.

(2.) Dust might be a problem for about four months of the year, but the rest of the time…well, coal is porous, dammit….and each one of those open cars will have accumulated several tons of accumulated rainwater, which is going to cost plenty to ship across the Pacific. Are they doing this because the open hopper cars already exist and there’s some sort of calculus involving the cost of covering them or building new ones.

All of this has the smell of pursuit of a fast buck, regardless of the consequences.

15. Roger Rabbit spews:

@10 “I wonder who is really paying for those ads”

Warren Buffett, the friendly pro-Democrat billionaire. BNSF is owned by Berkshire Hathaway.

16. Expat(!)Chad spews:

You ought to live next to the Chinese and watch them steal your natural resources by claiming the entire South China/West Philippine seas as their “Indisputable Right.It IS interesting to note that the US is reoccupying the military bases here abandoned in the 90s. Very quietly.

And is China ever pissed!!!

17. Zotz sez: Coal is in big trouble. spews:

Here’s what’s really going on:

Big Coal in big trouble as coal production costs rise

Basically US producers are selling coal for less than the cost of production which can’t last long. Just like all finite resources, the stuff that’s left is more difficult and thus more expensive and less profitable. They’re going bankrupt. Here’s the money quote:

“As I’ve said before, the only hope U.S. coal companies have to improve their fortunes is to export more coal. Having China and India bidding on the coal could potentially push the price up (which isn’t going to help U.S. coal utilities) and improve profit margins.”

If we can stop or seriously curtail/delay exports from WA and OR, we can really make a difference for climate change.

18. EvergreenRailfan spews:

First, there are already coal trains moving through the Seattle area, I have seen them. Usually during rush hour, from SOUNDER, I have seen them holding at the Auburn yard(BNSF gives SOUNDER priority, I believe it is part of the agreement Sound Transit and BNSF have), and once, I have seen one at Interbay Yard, and I think I got held up behind one of them on Amtrak Cascades in Canada.(Coal Trains go slower than Intermodal hotshots, Amtrak usually is not affected by those). I know this proposal is to increase that traffic.

Second, when BNSF has a 48 hour embargo on passenger trains after mudslides, why run coal trains through mudsldie alley? Other than Cascade Tunnel is too congested already, and trains have to hold for a half hour after other trains pass through while the tunnel is ventilating. In the late steam era, Great Northern would have steam locomotives cut off in Wenatchee, replaced with electric locomotives as far as Skykomish, where a new steamer was attached. Worked pretty good, but there was the oil spill from a leaky tank at Skykomish.(Which BNSF recently cleaned up, the tank had leaked from the 20s through 50s).

19. CH spews:

BNSF wants to run trains on all 3 tracks. It is flatter going through the gorge, that is why they prefer that route. They run empties over Stevens pass; through Ellensburg and Yakima. I would prefer to see the coal loaded into barges in the Herminston area, and floated to Greys Harbor, to be put on the ships. This would keep the coal out of most built up areas except for Spokane and the Tri Cities. And Tri Cities rail have seperated crossings already.

20. Roger Rabbit spews:

@18 If Hermiston became a coal barge terminal, that would create another economic and political obstacle to removing the Snake River dams.

21. dont bogart it dude spews:


cool facts.