What Will Coal Exports Mean for Bozeman Montana?

by jhwygirl

I’ve seen way more than just 40 coal trains heading west on the Burlington Northern to Seattle where the toxic mercury and arsenic laden coal will be exported to China…and that number is sure to increase with the impending approval of the Youngs Creek railroad which will move a significant amount of Wyoming’s more higher quality coal through Montana on it’s way to China.

Missoulians are concerned about this carcinogenic coal moving through their backyards. In March the Yellowstone Valley Citizens Council gathered over 100 people along with economists, government officials and railroad representative for a two-day conference which discussed the impacts of this coal traffic…while Yellowstone County Commissioners refused to discuss the impacts.

Tomorrow, the Northern Plains Resource Council will host a public meeting and panel to discuss the impacts of the increased coal train traffic traveling through Bozeman. At 7 p.m., in Bozeman’s gorgeous and recently remodeled Public Library’s large conference room, four Montana residents and energy experts will gather and offer their insight into the issue:
– Beth Kaeding, Northern Plains Resource Council: overview of the situation.
– Clint McRae, landowner near Colstrip: impacts to the land and agriculture.
– Dr. Richard Damon, retired physician: health issues and concerns.
– John Vincent, Public Service Commissioner: alternative energy options and solutions.

China has notoriously dangerous and dirty mines. Just as exploitation of workers here in the U.S. in the late 1800’s resulted in unionization and regulation of the industry, Chinese workers are demanding higher pay and greater regulation. Instead, what is China doing? Seeking their coal here, at a time that the market for coal has declined in the United States. U.S. coal companies are planning to export more coal to lucrative Asian markets from the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming. The most direct route is by rail to the West Coast. Across Montana.

From Beth Kaeding: “With up to 40 additional coal trains, full and empty, passing through Bozeman each day, it’s time for the community to come together to discuss what this will mean to our lives. There will be increased traffic congestion and noise as well as public safety and public health concerns that we need to understand.”

The Northern Plains Resource Council is a fine grassroots group that is comprised of ranchers and resource managers working to effectively balance economic resource development and the Montana natural resources that are the world’s treasures.

When I ask “What is Montana without i’s water?” I know that NPRC is working to ensure that none of us ever have to contemplate a Montana whose rivers aren’t something our children couldn’t enjoy.


  1. @jenergy: http://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/oregon-governor-wants-study-of-wyoming-montana-coal-export-impacts/article_ab02f6d4-4dfe-5d50-9d6b-89ac275f5353.html

    • Steve W

      thanks larry k!

      • @jhwygirl is the pro, actually; i screwed up on jeremy’s twitter handle: it’s @jerenergy. btw: may i nominate wyofile for mountain blogs?

  2. Maximize the Buck

    Montana was founded and built by miners. Montana is not called the Treasure State for nothing. Hey, check out the Great Seal of the State of Montana.

    The paintywaists in Bozeman are always looking for some bogeyman invading their bubble town. They have no clue what coal is or how trains work or even what Montana is all about.

    The only way to stop their perpetual whining is to move Bozeman to Boulder, Colorado.

    — Max Bucks

    • Steve W

      Miners wives in Butte who liked to garden formed the first environmental organization in Montana and forced smelters to build stacks since the smoke was killing gardens. That was back in the 1880s.

      They were looking for a bogeyman, found one, and put a stop to that crap.

      Just like now. So why are you living in the past Max? Arrested development?

      This is the future. No more smelting in the open on the ground and no coal dust clogging our communities.

      If you don’t like it Max, tough. Whine for me again Max, now won’t you?

      • MB

        You are a sucker, Steve, for every clean energy con that comes down the pike. You believe in solar and wind fantasies and a science fiction view of the future where either the world is destroyed by global warming or converted into a pristine utopia.

        You do not know anything about “coal dust clogging our communities.” What hype. All you know is what you have been told: Coal is bad. All you know is the party line.

        Meanwhile, in the real world, mine workers, mining companies, and the State of Montana are making a small fortune from energy extraction, while you are getting your pocket picked by the clean energy con artists who borrow a ton of taxpayer money and then promptly go belly up.

        — Max Bucks

        • Steve W

          No, Max, I’m a human who demands my government honor our constitution and enforce our goddess given rights to clean air and water for ourselves, our families and our neighbors across the state.

          We need to enforce our constitution for your family and for mine. Christ, Buddha, Bob, The Dali Lama, assorted atheists, Bob Dobbs and Brian Schweitzer, dude. Do you live in Montana, Max. Or are you just somehow economically interested?

          Are you coming to the meet up? Or is that impossible for you?

    • I don’t know if you are one of those Republicans, Max, that wants to claim that Republicans care about the environment Max…but under the assumption that you are…

      Coal is filthy. It has poisoned the water in Colstrip. The state and the EPA did not enforce action on NWE for this pollution, and the community finally had to hire their own lawyer to find justice in the ruin of their property due to the pollution of their water.

      You’re OK with this?

      So the coal companies spray some surficant on the coal to keep that arsenic and mercury laden dust. Do you know why? Because they know that there is mercury and arsenic in the crap.

      Think that keeps the dust down? It might reduce it, but guaranteed it’s still there. Why won’t they do sampling?

      Mines blowing out – Montana has more clean up sites than it will ever get to in my lifetime…or the children of the children that are alive today. Between the EPA’s sites and the DEQ’s sites?

      And why do taxpayers have to clean that up?

      Economic development, I guess, huh? You guys see this as economic development on the front end and then also look to the clean-up by Denny Washington as the second hurrah of economic development?

      Is that clean energy, in your mind, right?

      • MB3

        Like Steve W up above, you are overcome with environmental hysteria. Most of what is terrifying you is hype cranked out by the anti-coal lobby. But mostly you are disturbed by a real world that does not comport favorably with the irrational environmental aesthetic you have developed.

        All human activities have deleterious effects on the environment. Real life is not a wilderness hike where no trace of the hiker is left behind. To think that we can restore the planet to a state that existed prior to our activities is irrational.

        There are tradeoffs to human existence. You can have a pristine planet if you like, but you will have to huddle in a cold, dark hovel when the sun goes down, live in filth and poverty and sickness most of your life, and die before you are 30, if you make it that far. But, hey, the water will be clean (if you can boil it), and the air will smell great (if you do not mind the methane gas coming up from the cattle beneath your floor).

        On the other hand, you can live your happy, healthy, and safe life to its fullest in the modern world. Sure, you might see an abandoned mine site once in a while, maybe a clearcut or two, a dead fish here or there, and even some coal dust along the railroad tracks, but those things are minor tradeoffs compared to what you, and millions of others, have received in return.

        So get a grip on your life. Appreciate what you have. And the next time your electrical power goes off, imagine what you could lose.

        — Max Bucks

  3. Swede Johansson

    You guys are always looking at the glass half empty, your fondest wishes are about to come true.

    You can’t murder mine operators, railroad workers, earth raping loader drivers. But you squeal with delight knowing that by their exposure to such a toxic cargo they’ll all die slowly in an agonizing death.

    • Steve W

      ?

      Not sure what you are trying to express here, Swede.

      But it sounds weird. And convoluted. and just plain poorly thought out and executed.

      • MB2

        Weird, convoluted, poorly thought out and executed like this, Steve?

        “Christ, Buddha, Bob, The Dali Lama, assorted atheists, Bob Dobbs and Brian Schweitzer, dude.”

        — Max Bucks

    • JC

      Talking about black lung, Swede? None of us delight in the thought of workers dying from preventable diseases. The rate of black lung has doubled in the last 10 years, and over 10,000 coal workers have died from the disease in that same time span.

      Maybe if your spread is close enough to a coal rail line or mine, you’ll be able to experience the agony of the disease first hand.

      • MB5

        Obviously, you did you know that coal is a healthy choice. It is made from all natural ingredients and is totally organic. According to the USDA MyPlate recommendations, you should include a lump of coal in your diet at least once a day.

        Now, corn is a different thing altogether. Corn kills people every day. This why progressive communities have been setting up Gluten Free Zones all over the country. But corn dust is even more deadly. Besides causing Yellow Lung Disease in workers exposed to corn dust, many people have been blown up in corn dust explosions. Sometimes an entire city block is wiped out when the corn dust ignites.

        You might want to check with your local environmental organize to find out if corn is being transported through your community. It could be coming by rail or by truck, usually at night, but in either case it is without a doubt a deadly substance.

        If you cannot get any information about corn shipments, because it is has been covered up by the corn industry, look for bears along roadsides and train tracks in your neighborhood. That is a sure sign corn is being secretly transported through your community.

        — Max Bucks

        • JC

          You may mock the health hazards of coal dust, but you are definitely insulting the memory of those who have been killed by black lung. Go ahead and play ostrich. One day, your chickens will come home to roost.

    • Who the hell said that, Swede?

      We have spoken against the “justice” laid upon Libby. No one’s championing the slow death that workers suffer at the hands of toxic mining and railroad work.

    • Swede Johannson

      You guys snorting coal dust? Do I need to start including sarc tags?

      This post/protest could be an Onion piece. Coal trains causing harm to Bozeman’s enviro. Get real people.

      How come the workers aren’t being effected? How come yard men, RR workers, open pit miners aren’t effected? They work with the stuff 40+ hours a week dumping and filling trucks and RR cars.

      Stupidity on parade.

      • MB4

        So true. You cannot even find any coal dust in a coal mine.

        Take it from an MSHA trainer of 15 years.

        — Max Bucks

        • JC

          I’m sure that with MSHA personnel like you, we can understand why 10,000 coal workers have died in the last decade. You words are despicable.

          • MB10

            I was an MSHA trainer for private companies, not “MSHA personnel.” Geez, do you think a guy like me would work for the government?

            I will explain, since you obviously know nothing about the mining industry. An MSHA trainer trains mine employees on how to meet MSHA health and safety regulations. This protects the company from being cited (fined) by MSHA for violations during an MSHA inspection.

            One of the really queer things about you, JC, is your immediate identification with suffering people from all walks of life from all over the world. You are a true bleeding heart, and also a psychiatric case, of course.

            — Max Bucks

            • JC

              No Max, I come from a family whose roots and family name come from the coal fields of Pennsylvania — a long line of miners and smelter workers.

              Your associating my empathy and identification with many of my ancestors that died from black lung disease with being a psychiatric case says far more about you, than about me.

              Again, your words are despicable. Give it a break. Your heartless approach to free market capitalism is an anomaly, not the norm.

              • MB11

                Holy cow, the last you had a nervous break here, you claimed to be an Indian living on a reservation.

                Based on the emotional content of your writing, and your identification with all sorts of people you never met and know nothing about, it comes as no surprise to me that you have lost track of who you are and where you are coming from.

                — Heartless Max, Anomalistic but Rich

              • MB11

                [Errata] Holy cow, the last you had a nervous BREAKDOWN here, you claimed to be an Indian living on a reservation.

              • Quit making up fiction Max. If it is anyone that unravels, it’s you. It makes you appealing for various reasons imo.

                I’m also 1/8 Indian Max. Got a problem with that?

              • MB12

                Check your own blog archives before you go off the deep end. JC said he lived on a reservation in this blog, and presumably, so did his relatives. Now he says his “roots” are in Pennsylvania.

                Obviously, the poor fellow is suffering from some sort of psychological problem that leads him to believe his kin died at Wounded Knee and now in the coal mines of Pennsylvania. Next, I expect him to declare he is from Japan, and he lost loved ones in the recent tsunami.

                The guy is unbalanced. Whenever he hears of someone suffering somewhere, he thinks it is happen to him or his folks back home.

                PS: I do not have a problem with you being 1/8 Indian. You will just have to cope with it every time you go past a liquor store.

  4. Casey Jones

    Rail Link is a short line railroad and traffic has been light since it was sold. There have been many people move to Bozeman who aren’t aware of the history or potential use of an intercontinental railroad asset. BN, back in the 1970s, and NP before, was a transcontinental railroad. There were many daily trains, and a thousand people worked in good paying jobs in Livingston. In Laurel, a huge coal car refurbishing facility employed hundreds to refurbish entire coal trains.

    The truth is, the number of trains is a trojan horse masking the environmental groups’ plan to stop the mining and burning of coal. The railroad has always gone through Bozeman, and until MRL, it was a robust line with many trains. These were trains carrying anhydrous ammonia, chlorine, nuclear weapons, liquified natural gas, and all kinds of dangerous cargo. IF one of those trains were to derail, and burst open, people would be killed. It’s happened in Montana before. But a pile of coal on the side of the tracks? Not so much trouble, really.

    Railroads are a critical piece of transportation infrastructure vital to the economy of the towns that lie on its route, the same as rivers, ports, air”ports”, interstates, etc.

    Bozeman wasn’t even a town, just a mining camp. before the railroad arrived. After the arrival of the railroad, banks opened, newspapers started, etc. That’s how critical the railroad is. Ask Harlowtown how it has done since the Milwaukee disappeared.

    A generation of civic leaders did all they could to bring the railroad to Bozeman. The truth is, again, that the original route was north of the camp, and it was not certain that Bozeman would get the railroad, but discovery of COAL near Bozeman pass led the railroad to run its line through the city. All that followed, banks, newspapers, settlement, University, etc, is at least a partial result of that coal and that railroad.

    Ponder on that history before you attack a valuable transportation asset. Be truthful and up front in your motives instead of rallying the nimby- come- latelys who didn’t realize that railroad tracks, especially a transcontinental railroad, is an extremely valuable, but potentially dangerous industrial facility

    • Swede Johannson

      Casey, better watch your speed.

      Your libel to blow by all the authors here.

    • Steve W

      Casey, you are great at setting up straw men and knocking them down. You convinced Swede, after all, and he’s skeptical of everyone except you and Mitt Romney, who he has sworn to follow into battle all the way to November.

      People who live in the line of fire of the coal extraction to China have every right to organize and effect what’s done and how it’s done. Sorry if you believe in corporate dictatorship but we want to know what the consequences will be for the people affected.

      Imagine. People organizing in their best interests. An idea whose time has come.

      • MB13

        Yes, by all means, organize! And be sure to get the whole group to protest in front of a freight train.

        — Max Choo-Choo Bucks

  5. Casey Jones

    BTW, sorry, Harlow, for the extra “W”.

    And I’m not thinking jhwygirl is being dishonest; she’s been quite forthright in her opposition to coal mining and coal exporting and coal burning. It’s a legitimate, honest, straightforward point of view and one that will receive a lot of support for being just that. My opposition would be more along the lines of keeping Montana’s energy for Montana, like we argued for hydro.

    NPRC’s “psst, the trains are coming” has been hustled all along the old NP route these past couple of months to people who didn’t know or have forgotten the good old days when the railroad was a brawny industrial engine of the economy. Some towns are affected by trains more than others, and Bozeman not so much as Belgrade, for example. But a good test of the argument is this: would you be okay if the coal were hauled on the interstate? The towns wouldn’t be cut in half. The trains’ horns wouldn’t blow. Those diesel electrics wouldn’t be belching through town. Stevie, you’re not opposed to more trains, you’re opposed to coal being mined and coal being exported and coal being mined.

    PS, jhwygirl, Bozeman’s old library was remodeled into a Leed certified City Hall. It’s not gorgeous, but it’s got utlilty and good parking. That’s the “remodeled” building. The new library’s a brand new Leed Certified building. I think the meeting was in the brand new building. And yes, it’s pretty palatial.

  6. Steve W

    If you want to tell me what I’m for and what I’m against then I don’t think you are reading and comprehending what I’m saying, Casey.

    I support our constitution, including the part that guarentees clean air and clean water to all Montanans.

    I’s suggest you read it. It also protects your right to clean air and water, assuming you live here.

    And if you would prefer to allow your favorite heavy industry to pollute the air and water and harm people, you better change the constitution first. Otherwise you are just a law breaker, Casey.

  7. http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Idaho_and_coal

    http://statecancerprofiles.cancer.gov/cgi-bin/ratetrendbycancer/rtcancer.pl?047&0&30&00&1&0&1

    • coal going upwind of montana? watch the obits.

  1. 1 Does Coal Cash Turn Protestors into Hippiecrites? | 4&20 blackbirds

    […] What Will Coal Exports Mean for Bozeman Montana? […]




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