Coal Train Derailment Offers Lesson on Danger of Fossil Fuel on Rails
Between proposed coal export terminals and expanding oil production, more fuel is transported by trains than ever–with potentially disastrous consequences.
At 11:30PM on the evening of Sept. 26th, 2018, a coal train derailed just outside of downtown Columbus, Montana. Thirty-nine cars spilled 4,600 tons of coal, including into the Yellowstone River. The destination of the coal is unknown, but could have been either of the coal-fired power plants in Boardman, Ore, or Centralia, Wash, or an export terminal near Vancouver, British Columbia.
Recent years have seen proposals for several new coal export terminals along the west coast. Most of these proposed terminal projects have been abandoned. One proposed export facility remains: the Millennium Bulk Terminal, sited for Longview, Wash. The facility has been denied multiple permits from a variety of regulatory agencies, and has not succeeded in overturning those rulings. Each export terminal permit that’s denied is a significant victory for towns along the route, as dozens more loaded coal trains won’t roll through, threatening public health and safety, damaging local infrastructure, and negatively impacting property values.