GPT & Farmland Route


SGSF formed in response to public statements made by local officials and community groups in Bellingham, WA recommending that the impacts of coal trains on Bellingham be mitigated by rerouting those trains through the South Fork Valley.  In response, BNSF commented that they are not interested in the route because it requires“costly upgrades to the existing line, as well as a far more lengthy route to the shipping terminal.”

While at first pass such a statement by BNSF may seem reassuring, our research into similar permitting processes shows that BNSF has a history of delaying interest in alternative routes for coal trains and railroad expansion projects [see specifically Analysis on page 2], putting at risk the transformative impacts of an entire project being evaluated as a whole or by a single Environmental Impact Statement.

Also relevant is the 1992 Commerce Corridor Study that evaluated the feasibility of a proposed transportation corridor through the farmlands and agricultural communities of the South Fork Valley and north to the Canadian border through the Nooksack Plains. While the report found there to be significant economic and environmental costs and community action derailed the project, the second recommendation in the final report recommends that a NS freight corridor be considered.

SGSF has come to call this alternative route the Farmland Route, because it cuts through some of the most productive farm valleys and agricultural communities of Whatcom County. A rail expansion project connecting the existing route to Cherry Point is shown here in the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan’s rail line map, showing an east/west rail proposal from Lynden to Custer.

While BNSF says it’s not planning to use the Farm Land Route, nothing exists to prevent it from being used or developed as a coal transportation corridor if it is not adequately included as part of the Environment Impact Study.

SafeGuard the South Fork is currently working to ensure that the rural and agricultural interests be defined in the scoping process and be included in the required Environmental Impact Statement.  In particular we are calling for an assessment of the impacts of taxpayer expense for necessary infrastructure improvements, evaluation of the effects of noise, vibration, and pollution on resident’s health, agricultural crops, livestock, and natural environments, as well as land use transformation and a loss of a sense of place.

Please sign up our mailing list here or at the top right of this page to stay notified of public comment periods, as public opinion is essential to the success of the EIS.

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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?

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