The Billings Outpost

Reconsider coal traffic

In the county commissioners’ rush to support the export of coal to Asia (April 17), they failed to consider the needs of Yellowstone County residents. 

While there may be economic benefits to some of mining Montana coal, there are also a number of costs borne by others.

In Yellowstone County, the biggest cost would be a tripling of train traffic, meaning that gates would be down at downtown and Monad/Moore Lane crossings for at least a third of the day. The commissioners’ dismissal of such concerns displays an ignorance of the situation.

Currently it is tolerable but very inconvenient, with traffic backed up for many blocks downtown. But a tripling of train traffic would cripple our community, and a good quality of life is far more important to our local economy than a few mining jobs.

Are there ways to address the traffic issue? Certainly. But they will likely cost in the range of $50 million to much more. How do our county commissioners propose to pay for the transportation infrastructure?  Should Yellowstone County taxpayers pay the bill so that out-of-state companies can sell coal to China?

These questions could be addressed if we had information from an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers to evaluate the impacts of proposed coal export terminals in Washington. Yet the commissioners apparently had no interest in answers and voted not to be included in the EIS—a great disservice to Yellowstone County residents. I hope they reconsider their stance.

Ed Gulick

Billings

 

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