Livingston asks to be included in coal-to-Asia railroad study
December 4, 2014
The Livingston City Commission voted last night to send a letter to the federal Surface Transportation Board asking that the impacts of increased coal train traffic in Livingston be thoroughly considered in the environmental impact statement of the proposed Tongue River Railroad (TRR).
"Increased rail traffic will have a major impact on Livingston, since the railroad goes right down the middle of town," said Adam Stern, Livingston commissioner. "I am encouraged that Livingston will be included in the STB study, and look forward to reading their report."
With the letter, Livingston joins a long list of local governments that have asked to be included in the environmental impact statement for the proposed southeast Montana railroad. Missoula, Whitefish, the Lewis and Clark City-County Board of Health, and Seattle have all passed resolutions or sent letters asserting that increased coal train traffic from the Tongue River Railroad would have a significant impact on their communities' public health and safety, downtown economic development, infrastructure, and emergency response.
"We already have immense problems with traffic congestion because of coal and oil trains passing through Livingston," said Bill Edwards, a member of Yellowstone Bend Citizens Council, an affiliate of Northern Plains Resource Council, which asked the Commission to take action on the issue of coal trains. "The Tongue River Railroad would add an additional full-length coal train every 90 minutes. It would be almost impossible to get from one side of town to the other without waiting for a train."
Northern Plains is a Montana conservation and family agriculture group that has been fighting for Tongue River Valley ranchers against the TRR for 30 years.
The letter also asks that the STB require the railroad company to share in the cost of infrastructure upgrades necessary to mitigate the health, safety, and traffic impacts of increased coal train traffic through Livingston.
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The long-beleaguered Tongue River Railroad, if permitted and built, would use federal eminent domain and condemn ranch land to connect the main Burlington Northern Santa Fe line to the proposed Otter Creek coal mine near Ashland, Montana. Arch Coal co-owns the railroad with BNSF and a third party, and intends to open the Otter Creek Mine for the sole purpose of exporting coal to Asian markets.
"I don't understand why Livingston has to endure more rail congestion, more diesel fumes, and the risk of stalled fire trucks and ambulances just so a private company can ship coal to Asia," said Edwards. "Why should we have to bear the costs of their business?"
–Northern Plains Resource Council