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‘Traffic Ahead’ From Coal Trains Means Back Ups for Farmers


The rail lines in the Inland Northwest are at capacity, even before proposed coal and oil projects bring more trains through the region. That’s the upshot of a report by a transportation expert from Montana, who presented his findings at Gonzaga University Tuesday. Terry Whiteside is a principal in Whiteside and Associates. His firm analyzed rail impacts from all proposed coal export facilities in the northwest, including two in Washington and one in Oregon.

He says the northern tier of BNSF rail lines are already backed up, hurting farmers who need to ship their grain.
Whiteside: “For the very first time in many many years, we’re faced with a situation where the 2013-14 crop will not get moved before the 2014-15 crop hits the bend. That’s catastrophic.”
He says the outlook for farmers will get worse, especially if coal facilities move forward with shipments from Montana to the coast.
Whiteside: “All of the grains that we move over the Pacific Northwest, it totals about 39-40 million tons a year. The coal will be somewhere in the 80-100 million tons in five years and up as high as 170 million tons in 10 years.”
As far as benefits for shipping more coal, proponents tout jobs and potential for exports.
The firm has published two reports, most recently one in February called Heavy Traffic Still Ahead. Gonzaga Law School’s environmental law clinic brought Whiteside to Spokane to present his findings.

He gave presentations Wednesday in Cheney and Sandpoint.
Copyright 2014 Spokane Public Radio

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