Mitigating Effects and Working with the Railroad


This is a Sept. 2012 article from Seattle Business Magazine.  The author, Elaine Bowers, quotes Ken Opplinger, head of the Bellingham Chamber of Commerce.  “At the Chamber of Commerce, Oplinger says he expects the BNSF Railway to “come to the table” to look at ways of lessening the impact of additional trains, including possibly moving tracks that now cross the city’s new waterfront redevelopment site and creating a federally defined “quiet zone” through Bellingham. A new route would eliminate train whistles by requiring double crossing arms, fencing near the crossing to limit pedestrian access and other safety measures. “Rather than try to fight it off,” he says, “if we can find ways to work with the railroad and mitigate the effects, we would be much better off.” 
Safeguard the Southfork has always maintained that the potentiality for employing the totality of the BNSF system in Whatcom County exists; that the alternative to the coastal route in the South Fork Valley and the farmlands of eastern/ northern Whatcom County from Wickersham to Sumas along with a Lynden spur could be employed to mitigate capacity and political impacts.  Opplinger speaks to BNSF’s need to seek compromise with the establishment of a new route and operational procedures.  
It is BNSF’s prerogative to increase capital investment and upgrade to it’s heaviest duty Ribbon Rail on the farmland route recently; even when current rail traffic does not necessarily warrant it.  Those of us who have been monitoring the improvements to enhance rail capacity through the Whatcom Farmland route as well as the Abbotsford  to Westshore (and Blaine), cringe at the possibility that GPT watchers are not sufficiently savvy to the coy game that is playing out once GPT and their friends start eyeing a “NEW ROUTE”.  
By promoting misinformation and confusion BNSF and GPT obsfucate the possibility of employing the alternative farmland route, removing it from discourse while simultaneously laying the groundwork for using the route either as part of a loop which would ameliorate capacity problems as well as, in part the social controversies in Bellingham. 
GPT watchers would be wise to familiarize themselves with the history of the state legislature’s proposed Commerce Corridor for Washington State which was studied by Wilbur Smith & Associates in 2002.  The Commerce Corridor envisioned enhanced rail and concomitant highway redevelopment from the northern border to the Columbia River and found it unfeasible for economic and environmental reasons.

The Coal Enigma

You’ve probably heard the CSX  Railroad radio ads.  It’s so easy to let it swish between your ears, “hurray for green and efficient trains”.  The pitch is: Trains can transport one ton of freight 500 miles on 1 gallon of fuel.

So here’s how it adds up for coal going to the Gateway Pacific Terminal.

One coal car carries one hundred tons. It travels about 1500 miles.

One coal car utilizes 1 gallon of fuel per mile, multiply by 3 (1500 miles) x 100 (tons) which is 300 gallons of fuel to move one car of coal from the Powder River Basin to Cherry Point.

A coal train has 150 cars, thus requiring 45 thousand gallons of fuel for one trip.  In order to gauge this; visualize a gasoline tanker truck and trailer set, you’ll need four loads, each set holds eleven thousand gallons.

If we have 9 trains per day as stated by SSA, traveling to Cherry Point, then that equals 405 thousand gallons per day for diesel fuel.

Multiply that by one year and that is 147, 825,000 gallons of fuel per year and that is one way not round trip.

147, 825,000 gallons of fuel per year, give that some thought!

We are exporting a natural resource, coal, which means more jobs for Asian manufacturers, fewer for America, and we are taking near to 150 million gallons of diesel fuel off the American market, limiting supply to American farms and industry and raising the price to American business and consumers, destroying our landscape, polluting air and water and decimating communities to do this.

How might someone who believes in the necessity of GPT explain the need for it in Wall Street’s own terms?

Candidate Forums in South Fork

Don’t want a gravel pit?
Coal trains aren’t cool?
Other issues of concern?

One simple act can make an enormous difference—VOTE!
Here’s your chance to meet candidates, learn about their stance on particular issues, and express your concerns and support.

County Council Candidate Forum at the VanZandt Hall
Date: Wednesday September 7
Time: 7-9pm
Who: Alan Black, Christina Maginnis, Pete Kremen, Barbara Brenner

Please come!  Everyone welcome.  Enjoy drinks and light snacks to start off the evening.  Next, we’ll hear platform highlights from each candidate in a forum moderated by community member, Steve Powers.  Following, you’ll have a chance to ask the candidates questions and get answers.

See you Wednesday,
Anna Martin, Friends of the Nooksack Samish Watershed
Nicole Brown, SafeGuard the South Fork
Steve Powers, Community Member

 2nd Annual South Fork Nooksack River Canoe Clean Up—September 10th

The Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Associations’ work party culminates at Everybody’s Store on SATURDAY, Sept 10 from 1-3PM.

At that time Peter Kremen and Jack Louws will be present to meet and greet friends and neighbors.

There will be light refreshments and people are urged to bring a dish to make it a better time than ever.

*Please pass information on about these timely events.  Thank You!

Railroads and Coal

It was great seeing everyone gathered for the McKibbon event tonight, committed to standing up for what we believe is right and doing our part to stop coal exports from Cherry Point (and beyond). Thank you to REsources for hosting the event.

We’d like to share a video with you that is put out by Freight Rail Work to promote Railroads and Coal as a Unique Partnership. While this is intended to be a promotional video, you may feel otherwise. We’d love to hear your thoughts, because we certainly have our opinion.

Also, a reminder that Mayor Pike of Bellingham will hold a listening session regarding the coal terminal at 6pm on Wed, June 1 in the large courtroom in Municipal Court. 

Early next week we will begin much more regular posts to this blog with the intention of sharing a scope of materials that we find to be particularly interesting and relevant to the proposed GP Terminal at Cherry Point. Some of these posts will elaborate on the “Dirty Trail” tidbits we shared on our banner tonight, as well as other bits of information such as the video shared above. We will also continue updates on action items.

Please consider subscribing to our blog in the right column so that you are notified when updates are made to the site. In addition, our listserv is conservatively used for announcing events and working group meetings.

>ACTION: Public Assembly and Shoreline Master Program Hearing


To everyone working to stop coal export from the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal and the coal trains, please pass this on to everyone on your lists. 

The City of Bellingham’s Shoreline Master Program Hearing is Wed, May 25. Aligned with this important hearing related to water and shoreline rights, there are opportunities for getting informed and involved on the coal export issue also facing Whatcom County. 

Coal Export Strategy Meeting and Poster Making, The Old Foundry, Tuesday, May 24, 5:30

Anything Grows at The Old Foundry 100 E. Maple St. Bellingham would like to offer support in your efforts. We are holding a planning meeting for addressing the coal port implementation. All committed activists and organizations are welcome. We will also be sign making for the protesting outside city hall this wednesday. Anything Grows will be holding monthly events with the goal of raising awareness of the coal port situation and generating community support and direct action. 

Meeting and Public Assembly Wednesday, May 25 at City Hall 210 Lottie St. Bellingham 4:30ish

The public hearing is held in the chambers. From 6:00 PM until the meeting starts there will be a staff person who can answer your questions.  The meeting starts at 7 p.m. We need as many speakers who are fully informed to speak in opposition to the Shoreline Master Plan

The meeting room at city hall is small and can be easily packed. The crowd will probably overflow. We can let our strength be seen. City Hall is behind the City Library. There is an open area between the library and in front of city hall. It can accommodate a lot of people. A street separates the Whatcom County Administration from City Hall. Sidewalks go around the block where the library is, the city hall block and the Whatcom County Building. If people come early [4:30ish] before the workers and elected officials of both the City and Whatcom County go home, they can see our strength.

If you would like to speak at the meeting, when you come in you can sign up to speak. You will be given a form.  Please state on this form the City and County you live in. If you sign up to speak and then change your mind it is O.K. The moderator will then pass on to the next speaker.You do not have to speak you can present your letter. The letter will be a record.  This is something that Bellingham will decide but it affects the entire state.  I had a long conversation with Mr. Barry Wenger, Senior Environmental Planner, Washington State Dept. of Ecology concerning problems that we can address.

1. Access to the water: There will be an access problem if the trains come through. This problem will be decided on by the City of Bellingham although it affects the entire state. People in Bellingham can not get to the water if many trains with mile and one half length cars come through. People in the county will have a greater concern because they will have more difficulty getting through Bellingham to get to the water if the trains come through. The people in other cities and counties in Washington will have even greater problems than the Bellingham and County people in getting to the water because they will have a difficult in getting to Bellingham.  Mr. Wenger said that these are problems that the City will need to address. 

2.  Water: This matter is being heard by the Ecology Department. All questions about water problems need to be addressed. This means the water itself and all the things that live in the water.  This will also mean all things that move in the water.

The shoreline is the topic. Everything that is of concern about our shoreline needs to be addressed.

Mr. Wenger was very courteous and polite. His telephone number is 360-715-5200; email   If you email him he will put you on his mailing list. Comments can also be emailed to him. Please feel free to call Pearl Follett at 360-671-0434 or email if you have further questions. 

We hope to see you before the meeting and after.  At last we can be heard!