Montanans Organize to Stop Coal Trains, Exports

Plans by coal corporations could create five-fold increase in train traffic, extensive traffic delays and large increases in noise and air pollution

Note: City Commission Vote! Gallatin Valley residents: come speak or express your opposition to exporting coal through Bozeman and show your support for this proposed city resolution at the Bozeman City Commission meeting on Monday August 13 (time TBD) at City Hall, 121 North Rouse Avenue (old library building). Thanks to all who came out to the July 9 Commission meeting to exporess your views and push this forward.

Please see bottom of this page for information on submitting letters to the editor of Montana daily newspapers and (for Bozeman residents) to City Council members.

Imagine dozens more trains than existing traffic levels passing through your town…every day and night. Trains with 70 or more cars carrying uncovered carloads of crushed coal. Time and money wasted in traffic back-ups of 8 or more minutes every half-hour. More noise pollution. Coal dust pollution. Higher taxes to pay for massive “externalities” created by transnational mining corporations like Arch, Peabody and Cloud Peak. All this so they can extract coal from Montana and Wyoming, transport it to Pacific ports and ship it across the ocean, while creating almost no new Montana jobs.

Citizens of Bozeman, Billings, Livingston and other many other communities in Montana, Oregon and Washington would suffer directly while the planet will endure environmental impacts from burning huge amounts of oil to ship cheap coal to China and other Asian nations, where it can be burned with inadequate pollution controls. Virtually no new jobs or revenues would be created in any Montana communities.

This disturbing picture already is coming into focus. We now see an average of five more trains daily passing through communities on the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe rail line through Montana and into Washington (many through Oregon as well). We believe the harms caused to our communities and the environment as a whole are unacceptable and must be halted through a grassroots uprising.

Perhaps we can learn from the lead of Coal-Free Bellingham, which is pushing to implement the Bellingham Community Bill of Rights. Instead of asking the EPA or Army Corps of Engineers to limit the number of coal trains, reduce the 500 pounds of dust that falls of each rail car, or seek help for traffic problems, their resolution says, “Whereas, the residents of the City of Bellingham possess the inherent and inalienable right to govern their own community…” and goes on to prohibit exportation of coal through their port. The group, working through our allies at the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, also has compiled an informative FAQ (pdf). The people of Bellingham are choosing to act as sovereign citizens, not as subjects. Will we?

Elsewhere, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed a resolution on May 29 opposing the development of coal-export terminals in Washington, while Missoula took the modest step of passing a resolution asking the Army Corps of Engineers to study the health impacts of the proposed expansion of coal trains and export.

Contact or call 406-582-1224 to get involved and get contacts in your community. In Bozeman, an inaugural organizing meeting yielded four action groups: public education, state-level policy, developing city ordinances and networking to build alliances with sister communities and organizations. Contact us for the point person in any group of interest to you.

Background Links on the Coal Train/Export Controversy


Key Resources and Organizations

Bozeman, MT Organizing Updates and Resources
(contact us to engage or join local announcement list). See report on inaugural community organizing meeting of May 29.

Speak Up in Print! Express you thoughts in a letter to the editor to one of the Montana newspapers (below) in impacted communities. Reclaim Democracy! created this thorough free primer on writing effective letters to help you (and we’re happy to offer editing assistance).

Bozeman City Commission

  • Sean Becker, Mayor,
  • Jeff Krauss, Deputy Mayor,
  • Carson Taylor, Commissioner,
  • Chris Mehl, Commissioner,
  • Cynthia Andrus, Commissioner,