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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 3, 2012 1:18 PM. The previous post in this blog was Dear Lord, please.... The next post in this blog is Portland arts groups not exactly starving. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Coal train plays the blues

A train hauling coal from Wyoming to British Columbia for shipment to China derailed near U.S. 395 north of Tri-Cities last night. Thirty open coal cars tipped over.

According to the O version of the story, the train was en route to the Columbia Gorge. This map seems to show where it was headed. If we're already getting the trains, that may change some folks' calculus on whether we want the shipping terminal. We already know we'll be getting the acid rain after the Chinese burn the stuff.

Comments (14)

Actually, the Powder River Basin coal is some of the cleanest-burning fossil fuel on the planet.

The basin's boom stems from a geologic quirk -- and tighter environmental regulation.

Some 55 million years ago, it was a swamp, isolated from the ocean. That freshwater genesis means the coal here produces less energy when burned than other U.S. coal supplies. It also has much lower sulfur content, cutting emissions of sulfur dioxide when it's burned.

Forty-two years ago, Congress passed the Clean Air Act. Two decades later, it limited sulfur dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants to reduce acid rain. Powder River Basin mining has increased 6 percent a year ever since.

By the way, according to the federal EIA, carbon dioxide emissions this year will likely be at levels not seen since 1991 - and that without windmills and solar panels (which combined account for around 2% of US energy sources).

http://mjperry.blogspot.com/

see yesterday's post.

Could be worse...a dam failure killing tens of thousands of people...or a nuclear meltdown...

I'll take a coal train derailing any day. Worse case scenario, it's taking crap we dug out of the ground and putting it right back on the ground.

These trains will all be coming down the Columbia River on the Washington side and through Portland to points north into Washington and south to Coos Bay. They are too heavy to cross the Cascades. They will be traveling along the Columbia/ Lombard tracks and along I-84 into downtown Portland. Our air quality will certainly suffer.

"They will be traveling along the Columbia/ Lombard tracks and along I-84 into downtown Portland."

Why would they go through downtown when they can go along Lombard?

Thanks
JK

These trains will all be coming down the Columbia River on the Washington side and through Portland to points north into Washington and south to Coos Bay. They are too heavy to cross the Cascades. They will be traveling along the Columbia/ Lombard tracks and along I-84 into downtown Portland. Our air quality will certainly suffer.

Wow. Just wow. Talk about a statement that's so inaccurate that it probably came from Metro or the Mayor's office.

First of all, if a train originated on the BNSF in the Powder River Basin, travelled through the Columbia Gorge and was destined for Longview, why would it enter Portland? Simple - it wouldn't.

Second, if the train was bound for Coos Bay, it would probably take a UP routing (south side of the Columbia River) in which case it would have to travel through Portland, along Columbia Boulevard, south through the north Portland tunnel and then south. (This is because there is no track that allows a train to travel from the Graham Line along I-84 to the Brooklyn Sub, without pulling into Albina Yard and reversing direction.)

Third, these trains can cross the Cascades. Coal trains cross over much more mountainous territory than the Cascades. They simply don't, because BNSF has the flexibility of having three west-east routes across Washington and can simply choose to route heavier bulk trains along the Columbia River while keeping the Scenic Subdivision for lighter intermodal trains. That said, if needed a coal train can be routed on the Scenic or Stampede Subs. Union Pacific doesn't have another route across the Cascades - but that same track continues east across the Blue Mountains, a very difficult stretch of track. And UP routes coal trains over the Rocky Mountains (especially the old Denver, Rio Grande and Western Track through Colorado), and the old Western Pacific and Southern Pacific line across Donner Pass in central California, as well as Cajon Pass in southern California.

Finally, how will air quality suffer because of the mere presence of a coal train?

Coal trains have been running east from Wyoming for years. Read an excellent two part article Coal Trains by John McPhee in the New Yorker October 3 and 10 2005.

Erik, you missed the the points. They can and will travel the Washington side to Longview too, but will also come through the Oregon side. We know they can use the the Peninsula tunnel, but they will will also travel I-84 to Coos Bay because the volume of traffic will demand it. The trains are going to be long and heavy, thus making better business sense not needing more engines and shorter trains, to travel the Columbia River. These routes are based on information deveoped by Multnomah County and Oregon Department of Transportation.

As for air quality the degradation will originate from the substantial amount of coal dust becoming airborne, ie. asthma. The kind of debris that builds up along the tracks and far beyond into our neighborhoods.

Scott Fernandez: As for air quality the degradation will originate from the substantial amount of coal dust becoming airborne
JK: Can you cite a source for this? Al I have found is claims of a 500 lb loss per car, but that could be just a 1/4 of 1% reduction in water content.

Scott Fernandez: , ie. asthma.
JK: I suggest you apply for the Nobel prize for finally have discovering the cause of asthma because conventional wisdom is that no one knows the cause. (Several groups are claiming that their pet cause is the cause of asthma in order to raise money.)

Scott Fernandez: The kind of debris that builds up along the tracks and far beyond into our neighborhoods.
JK: Does that mean I can go to one of those tracks that has been carrying coal trains for years (decades?) and see the black roadbed from all the dust? Please tell me where to go to get photos.

BTW, what about coal dust is toxic? (After all , it is mostly elemental carbon.)

BTW2: Did anyone care about coal trains before the Sierra Klub started its jihad against coal (based on their false claim that CO2 harms climate)?

Thanks
JK

Maybe I am confused, but I have been seeing coal trains Often (last couple of years). Both along the Gorge around Multnomah Falls to Hood River which I travel to frequently and in downtown Portland south to Oregon City.
For the last couple of years I see coal trains heading south out of downtown and have always wondered where they are going. Any ideas? Surely not going to Kalifornia are they?

Beware of the DiHydrogen Monoxide!
The Deadly greenhouse gas.

If we are sending coal to china, and perhaps shale oil too, how will the US be energy independent? The energy is there, but we are selling our future along with increasing our national debt with this crazy government of ours. Do the young people know what is happening, what their future will be like? Do they think solar power will save us all? Until that dream becomes a reality, God help us all.

I'm glad that coal trains can't make it over the Cascades, but somehow manage to climb the Rockies.

Yay, making stuff up!

For all the naysayers... try to keep up. The configuration of the 125-150 coal cars that are needed to profitably run the system do not go over the Cascades because of added costs to travel the path of most resistance. Same with the Rockies. Having seen them in Colorado they mostly move along I80 and I25.

Jim, BNSF is now attributing derailments to the accumulation of coal dust- ohttp://wyofile.com/2011/05/railroad-wins-in-coal-dust-up/
As far as asthma, there are many triggers...dust being one as identified by EPA. Are you saying coal dust cannot contribute and eliminating the point source would not be helpful? Because EPA thinks so and others too.

Outdoor Air Pollution - coal dust and soot, emissions from coal-fired power plants, factories, toxin and chemical emissions from industrial manufacturers, vehicle and truck exhaust, and ozone are known "asthma triggers" and can cause severe damage to the lungs.

I stand by my positions based on graduate level sciences and experiences.


Scott Fernandez: Jim, BNSF is now attributing derailments to the accumulation of coal dust- o http://wyofile.com/2011/05/railroad-wins-in-coal-dust-up/
JK: You appear to base you claim on this one newspaper statement:
The cause of the derailments; Coal dust from loaded trains had accumulated on the rail bed preventing proper water drainage during the wet 2005 spring. That does not appear to be a claim that BNSF has attributed the cause to coal dust - do you have any source better than a newspaper as they are usually wrong on anything remotely related to science?

Since this coal accumulation is so severe, where can I take pictures of black roadbeds? Or are these pictures all over the internet & I missed them?

Scott Fernandez: As far as asthma, there are many triggers...dust being one as identified by EPA.
JK: Sorry, the EPA has ZERO credibility. Prime evidence is their claim that CO2 is a pollutant that needs to be regulated. In case you did not know, 96+% of CO2 emissions are from natural sources, temperature increases BEFORE CO2 increases and no one has ever proven that CO2 causes warming is a real atmosphere subject to convection, wind, water cycle and overlapping absorption bands.

Scott Fernandez: Are you saying coal dust cannot contribute and eliminating the point source would not be helpful?
JK: I am saying that my impression is that no one has proven a cause for asthma, so it is speculation to blame anything for causing asthma. And this whole field is full of politically motivated lies from the greens such as the sierra klubs war on coal.

Scott Fernandez: Because EPA thinks so and others too.
JK: EPA is political zealotry, not science, See above.

Scott Fernandez: Outdoor Air Pollution - coal dust and soot, emissions from coal-fired power plants, factories, toxin and chemical emissions from industrial manufacturers, vehicle and truck exhaust, and ozone are known "asthma triggers" and can cause severe damage to the lungs.
JK: Now talk about real world exposures, not coal dust in a mine, and talk about hormesis.

Scott Fernandez: I stand by my positions based on graduate level sciences and experiences.
JK: Please show us proof, not credentials - I have seen too many climate “scientists” totally wrong.

Thanks
JK


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