Bozeman Resolution on Coal Trains

Posted July 2, 2012

A resolution of the Bozeman City Commission to request that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hold a public hearing in Bozeman, Montana, and that it prepare a comprehensive Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) on the cumulative impacts of new and expanded coal export terminals in Washington and Oregon, as Bozeman will be significantly impacted by the transport of coal by rail from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming to terminals along the Pacific Coast.

WHEREAS, currently, there are four coal-export terminal projects pending before the Corps: the Gateway Pacific Terminals (“GTP”) site at Cherry Point, Washington; the Millennium Bulk Logistics (“MBL”) site at Longview, Washington; the Oregon Gateway Terminal at the Port of Coos Bay, Oregon; and the Coyote Island Terminal site at the Port of Morrow, Oregon. Additional permit applications are anticipated for the Kinder Morgan project at the Port of St. Helens, Oregon, and the RailAmerica proposal at the Port of Grays Harbor, Washington. Additionally, existing export terminals at port facilities in British Columbia that are already receiving coal shipments are considering expansions.

WHEREAS, taken together, the announced capacity of the planned U.S. projects is approximately 150 million tons of coal per year. Operating at full capacity, these plans would mean approximately 60 coal trains—each about a mile and a half long—moving through Montana , Idaho , and the Pacific Northwest everyday. These trains will pass through Bozeman , Montana , and will potentially result in a significant adverse effect on our community that should be considered in any environmental review of these proposals.

WHEREAS, to ensure each individual permitting action accounts for the significant cumulative impacts of multiple proposed Northwest coal export terminals, the Army Corps of Engineers must first prepare a PEIS that carefully analyzes the combined impacts of multiple, similar coal export terminal proposals.

WHEREAS, such analysis is allowed for, and most likely required, under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Under Section 1508.25(a)(1) and (2) of the Council of Environmental Quality’s NEPA regulations, this environmental review must collect, analyze, and consider connected and cumulative actions for any federally supported project. Further, “cumulative” and “similar” actions should be discussed within a single environmental impact statement, necessitating the development of a PEIS.

WHEREAS, the railroad tracks in Bozeman bisect a significant portion of the city’s residential, commercial, and industrial activities, and the crossings at North Rouse Avenue, Wallace Avenue, Griffin Avenue, and Story Hill Road restrict access to Kelly Canyon, Bridger Canyon, and the Bridger and Bangtail Mountain ranges for residential, commercial, and recreational access. Additionally, the response time of emergency services, including law enforcement, fire departments, and emergency medical services, will be increased to the aforementioned areas, resulting in potentially life-threatening delays.

WHEREAS, the increased noise, air pollution, and inconvenience could lead to significant reductions in property values; and an increase in response times for emergency services could lead to increased property insurance and health care costs.

WHEREAS, increased train traffic, whether by an increased number of trains or cars per train, will cause significant increases in diesel exhaust, coal dust emissions, and noise pollution; and the longer and more frequent delays in vehicle traffic will result in increased emissions of air pollution from numerous cars idling for additional hours per day. These increases in pollution can reasonably be expected to have negative health impacts.

WHEREAS, increased diesel emissions and coal dust will negatively affect the agricultural sector of the Greater Bozeman area, especially farms and ranches adjacent to the rail line. This could cause significant negative impacts in local agricultural production, as farms and ranches may need to relocate to avoid contamination of their fields and pastures.

WHEREAS, Bozeman’s large and growing high-tech sector is a major factor in the economic vigor of our city, and the location of high-tech businesses in Bozeman is closely related to quality of life, which will be negatively impacted by increased train traffic. This could lead to a loss of new businesses locating in Bozeman, the exodus of existing businesses, a reduction in construction jobs and all the supporting businesses and services needed to support these businesses and their employees.

WHEREAS, increased noise and air pollution may negatively affect tourism, as most of the city’s hotels and many other tourist facilities are located close to the railroad tracks. Shortened stays due to these impacts would significantly reduce income among this critical economic sector in our area.

WHEREAS, the citizens of Bozeman would bear the costs to upgrade several railroad crossings and build new infrastructure to mitigate traffic delays and safety concerns, resulting in increased taxes.

WHEREAS, mounting evidence demonstrates the negative health impacts of coal mining, process, transport, and combustion.

WHEREAS, studies show living near major transportation routes and industrial areas correlates with higher rates of respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, due to diesel emissions, coal dust particles, and exhaust from idling automobiles.

WHEREAS, increased train traffic through the northern portion of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem and through the I-90 corridor may have a detrimental effect on the waterways, wildlife populations, and health of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. As tourism and outdoor recreation is integral to Bozeman ‘s economy, the ecological and economic effects of increased coal transport through the northern portion of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem must be analyzed.

WHEREAS, any environmental analysis of these proposals must consider the negative long-term effects of burning huge volumes of sub-bituminous coal. Domestic demand for sub-bituminous coal from the Powder River Basin has been rapidly declining due to more stringent emissions standards and access to cheaper and cleaner fuels. Coal exports from the Powder River Basin will permanently shape global energy markets. With access to cheap, abundant PRB coal, countries in Asia will be induced to build a new fleet of coal-fired power plants capable of burning the more corrosive, higher-alkaline coal. These new plants, with a minimum thirty-year life span, will lock in reliance on coal from the Powder River Basin and forestall the transition to cleaner energy sources in these developing markets.

WHEREAS, the City of Bozeman Community Climate Action Plan, adopted by the Bozeman City Commission on March 28, 2011, states: “Scientific evidence clearly tells us that the Earth is warming, and that anthropogenic (man-made) causes are influencing this trend. That was the conclusion of the second scientific assessment of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988 and reinforced by the third and fourth scientific assessments by the IPCC submitted in 2001 and 2007. In 2007 the IPCC concluded, ‘The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate.’”

Now therefore be it resolved that the Bozeman City Commission requests that environmental reviews of these proposals consider the effects on the City of Bozeman.

Be it further resolved that the Bozeman City Commission requests that the Army Corps of Engineers conduct a comprehensive Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement that includes an analysis of not only the direct impacts but also the indirect and cumulative environmental impacts, including the impacts on Montana communities, from all proposed coal ports in the Pacific Northwest.

Be it further resolved that the City Commission of Bozeman requests that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hold a public scoping hearing in Bozeman, Montana .

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