Stop the Tongue River Railroad Project
Nick Engelfried and I met, several years ago, while coming up on a shuttle from Salt Lake City, Utah, as I recall. We struck up a conversation, and ended up talking about environmental issues, with my daughter having a master's degree in Natural Resource Management, and Nick also having a master's degree in a very closely related field . . . and Nick has been enlightening me on these issues ever since that day. Last Friday, I ran into Nick, stopping me on the Higgins Street, right outside the Break Coffee Cafe' and asking me to fill out a small, previously prepared note to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, who is now in the comment period, to be taken to determine the issue and problems, with the Otter Creek Coal Mine and Tongue River Railroad Coal Project really one in the same because you can't have the coal mine without having the transportation system or mechanism in place to get the coal to the Pacific Ocean, to transport and export that coal to China!
I am not as up on the issues as Nick is, so I had him help me check off the issues that he thought were most important, and then I added one of my own, on the blank line section. Having lived in Parowan, Utah, one of the hotbeds for the exposure to the atomic bomb and nuclear testing, in the Nevada deserts, with people going out to watch the big pink clouds in the sky, even taking picnic baskets and making a family outing of the event . . . only to have women give birth to babies with birth defects, and the normal babies, later had complications of their own, during pregnancy, and an overly large percentage of people from that area, who developed cancer, found to be directly related to exposure to the vitriol particles and contamination in the air, I mentioned the health issues, that have been connected to coal, like respiratory problems. We are not making decisions for today, or next week, or even next year . . . but for generations to come! We are deciding the air, water, land, wildlife, agricultural lands, farming and ranching quality for generations, not to mention, our own health, and the common home, we call Mother Earth!
GOAL OF BIG SKY CAMPAIGN, 350 MISSOULA, AND COMMUNITY ACTION FOR JUSTICE IN THE AMERICAS, AFRICA AND ASIA (CAJA3)
Nick's goal is to get 5,000 comment forms filled out, and given to the Surface Transportation Board, before the comment period is up, and the permit is granted. The Board is known to be nothing more than a rubber stamp for large corporations who seek their approval and permission to mine and transport coal! I am going to attempt to cut and paste the small note to the Board, giving you, the citizen, a chance to check of from the prepared list of issues, those of most concern to you; however, if I am not successful, you can go online and fill the survey, note, comment in that way, and get it to Big Sky Campaign, who will in turn, get them where they need to go!
Here is the site, 350missoula.org/trr, well I just tried to cut and paste--too scary, don't want to erase my blog, and I am on the law school's computer, not as advanced as the one I gave away, last week to the black dude, to avoid being tracked by the NSA, especially while traveling through UTAH! Major issues of concern:
- Quality of life in rail line communities affected by noise pollution.
- Air quality in neighborhoods right next to the rail line (where highly localized impact will be more severe than on any given town's air shed considered as a whole).
- Climate change caused by burning coal that would be transported on the TRR.
- Private property rights infringement and degradation of farmland in rural Montana.
CONTEXTUAL FRAMEWORK AND BACKGROUND
Arch Coal Corporation, is the entity seeking the permit to mine coal in Montana . . . they are a company from back east, seeking to get their hands on the natural resource and treasures of the Treasure State or Montana! Their main objective and incentive in getting a permit to build the railroad and also to mine the coal, is to export the coal to China. Most of the area that will be affected, is in the grasslands, south and east of Billings, where there are many ranches and farms, that may, if the permit is granted, be the subject of what is called in property law, as eminent domain, where due to the need of the state or someone the state is granting a permit to mine the coal or put in the railroad, the property necessary for those uses, will be purchased, for fair market value, and the property changed to the use, that the permit, permits. The Clark Fork River, runs right along side of the proposed route for the railroad, and this is a huge recreational area, for boating, fishing, and river rafting, which will also be affected.
One thing that needs to be noted, is the fact that the two primary methods of employment, income, and taxes in the state, come from agriculture and tourism! One in five people in the state of Montana, are employed on a ranch or a farm, and tangentially connected employment. Just the other day, it was recorded, that May had the largest number of tourists, going to Glacier National Park, in history of keeping records . . . and while people are coming and going, many of the Park tourists and visitors, will go to Yellowstone too, down in the southwestern corner of the state, and cross through some of the territory, that will be affected by the coal mines. That is just what I think, looking at the layout of the state, and where I went during my Get Lost in Montana days, when I first came to this amazingly beautiful state! Both tourism and agriculture are growing in the state . . . with record number of visitors, and also, more and more kids, getting into agricultural degrees, programs and trades . . . we are returning to Mother Earth at a big rate . . .
Comment Periods, Are Due Process--You Are Being Heard! So, Speak UP!
Were we are with regard to the process that is due . . . like in due process to put in a coal plant such as this is: (1) the public comment stage . . . this is where you, Joe/Jane Citizen come in; (2) the next phase is the Environmental Impact Statement. I just want to mention, that giving notice and hearing to the public, is what is constitutionally called, due process! The way the government works, is that, at times, the public comment time is years in advance of the actions taken by the government. I was involved somewhat in dealing with the road closures . . . the governments terminology, so as to be less offensive, was, putting the road into, storage, as I recall, or some term, that really didn't ring a bell with me or the people, but often, people fail to get involved, and blow off the public comment stage, and then, when the Forest Service starts to close the roads, people go ape shit, and wonder how the government can do this without even letting the people know! Just yesterday, the Revalli County Commission, was told, while they were elected by the people and represent them, they had given up their right to appeal the closures, and so the shockingly high number of roads being put into storage, was something, the commission now opposed, as I scanned the newspaper and that article . . . but that is the case, NOW IS THE TIME TO GET INVOLVED, by the time the impact statement is being done, you are probably too late to do much!
Why People in Missoula, Should Give a Rat's Ass . . . Now 5 Trains Per Day Go Through Town, This Will Up the Number by 8 to 10 More Trains Per Day!
The plan of ARCH Coal is to mine the natural resource on the other side of the state, and then, put the coal in train cars, and transport the stuff, to the Pacific coast, to be put on ships, to China . . . but, whatever jobs, that might result from the construction from the mine, the railroad, and managing the plant, will be temporary, and like I said, most of the jobs in that area, and in Montana in general, come from two industries, that will be most affected by the coal plant, tourism and agriculture . . . THINK! Last year, I was taking a bus from Spokane to Missoula, and earlier that month, Nick had invited me to attend a public hearing, on the number of coal trains, going through Missoula, with his group and others trying to limit the number of daily trains . . . another time, Nick and buddies, got arrested, for standing too close to the coal trains, that the cops thought they were impeding the traffic of the trains, and other vehicles, and so they arrested the hand, holding, angels of protection, making sacrifices for the rest of us, who are not as aware of the threat to our health, ears, respiratory systems, and other environmental concerns. So, I am leaving Spokane on a beautiful fall day, going down through St. Regis, with clear skies, fall colors, sparkling sunshine, and nothing more pristine than the mountains, the rivers and streams!
That was until I started coming closer to Missoula! The air got thicker, the blue skies that Montana is known for, got hazy, and the view of the mountains and city, got foggy, dirty, and for the first time, I realized, just what the fuck, Nick and his friends were talking about . . . this sucks, is ugly, and I looked over and started to pay attention to the coal trains, clanging and banging, along the road, also, noticed that only about the first 25 cars of 100 or so, had covers over the coal . . . with some lady telling me at the meeting with Mayor Engan, that her husband worked for the railroad, and the coal cars were always covered, or from what I saw, they were covered, for the first fourth, and the rest of the 75 were blowing dust and particles into our air, city, water, and making a hell of a lot of noise! I thought, how could Spokane have cleaner air than Missoula, the Blue Sky State? Those fucking coal trains, and I was convinced, that yes, this environmental stuff, was not just a joke, with a bunch of lunatics, blocking trains and shit . . . this was real! There was also a nurse at the meeting with the city council, in Missoula, who got up and told of all the health issues they were seeing at the hospital, that she just wanted the council to weigh in on the decisions, concerning the health, safety and welfare of the citizens, their number one concern and duty!
As Providence Would Have It . . . There Was a Great Article on the Colstrip Coal Plant in the Missoulian This Morning!
I thought the article did a great job, looking at an existing plant, some of the issues, and concerns, with a look to the future, that might give insight and power to just what Nick is saying:
- the coal plant is profitable now, so there is not reason to close the plant; however, the pollution-control costs are looming
- coal's share of the electricity market is crumbling
- pollution-control costs loom large and with the current atmosphere, they are likely to get even larger as EPA standard for carbon emissions, fossil fuels, and environmental quality control grow
- President Obama, is pushing each state to come up with a plan to work on climate controls and energy efficiency, calling for a 30% reduction in areas that affect climate changes
- Just recently President Obama, met with the Prime Minister of China, or whatever he is called, and they signed an international agreement to limit the use of coal, with the U.S. and China being the world's largest consumers of coal
- Governor Steve Bullock, mentioned that he thought, while being a coal producing state, that Montana could come up with a plan to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide and other agents harmful to the environment could be achieved
- uncertain times for coal power in the U.S. . . . things are changing, with some pretty heavy hitters, coming down on the side of climate monitoring and controls, to prevent changes, global warming and such . . .
- Colstrip customers are primarily in the Northwest . . . and there are several other providers up in that area, who could fill the demands of the population
- makes more sense to retire the coal plants, that to continue to put millions more to reduce pollution from the coal
- major forces working against coal burning power plants, is the low price of natural gas, which has driven the erosion of the electricity market, and coal use is down by one third, since a decade ago
- two major expenses are looming:
- equipment to control emissions going into the atmosphere of fine particles that cause "haze" which reduces visibility and causes respiratory problems;
- and potential reduction in carbon dioxide the greenhouse gas blamed in global warming
- costs to comply with the EPA's pending carbon dioxide rule are not known
- technologies that can capture carbon to prevent its release are unproven as a commercial scale
By the Time the Otter Creek and Tongue River Railroad Get Approval, Permission, and Built . . . It May Not Be Feasible to Use, or Could be Obsolete as an Energy Source!
Nick's Congressional Report Card
- U.S. Senator Steve Daines, all about corporate pollution . . . climate change is not happening, and these 14 people who staged a sit in to get to talk to him, were just messing up the office and staff called the cops . . . so don't expect much help on this issue from the Daines people or the Republicans
- U.S. Senator Tester, his staff was much more willing to talk; however, Nick said that while staff was willing to listen, that Tester, is still involved in issues that would not limit the amount of coal produced in Montana
- Congressman Ryan Zinke . . . worthless . . . while he was in the legislature, he signed a letter stating he was aware of climate change, then did a complete flip flop, and now, allegedly doesn't believe in it at all, and he is promoting coal exports, and trying to prevent the EPA, or Environmental Protection Agency from protecting the environment or the impact the coal production will have on the state and climate control. In Nick's words, he is a Climate Denier!
Major Players on Each Side of the Issue
- in opposition to the ranch lands being destroyed by the railroad, are of course, the ranchers and farmers in the Miles City area, where Nick and crew had the opportunity to meet with them, and support them in their efforts . . . the ranchers are fighting hard for their way of life!
- in favor of the coal mine, are paid lobbyists, Montana Coal Council, not to be confused with some government entity, who favors the mine, they work for the coal industry, and promote their projects . . . supply money, ads, and resources for the coal industry . . . they are totally ignoring the jobs and industries hurt by the project . . . my guess is that just don't give a fuck, as long as they get paid!