Constant Curmudgeon needs to get facts straight

By Dennis Lowenthal | Jul 24, 2012


In John Pierre’s article in the 19 July, 2012 issue of the Beacon he totally misrepresents the reality of the Brackets’ Landing gathering to hear Mayor Earling’s concerns about increasing train numbers through Edmonds (with a possible 100 per day by 2030 which would be every 15 minutes), and his desire to take mitigating action for a safer Edmonds.

The Mayor announced first thing in the public meeting "If you think this is a rally centered on stopping coal trains you need not be here, because it is not just that.”

While a lot of us are against coal trains through Edmonds most of us were there to hear the Mayor’s draft ideas at mitigating this conveyor belt of trains, not to protest.

There were a few anti-coal train signs held by citizens in the 200-250 gathering, but hardly a major demonstration.

And anyway, isn’t that a key element of our democracy, the right to free speech; protestors bring our attention to issues we may not have thought about and after all even corporations are now protected as citizens, so why shouldn’t the real citizens get some respect when they want to make their opinions known?

Here are some facts for the Constant Curmudgeon:

There have been 6 coal train derailments across the nation in the last 4 weeks:

A coal train derailed near the town of Mesa in eastern Washington; 31 overturned railcars spilled an estimated 6 million pounds of coal.

A coal train derailed near Junction City, Kansas sending 21 railcars off the tracks and spilling hundreds of tons of coal.

A coal train derailed in Texas spilling 43 railcars worth of coal. July 4, a coal train derailed and bridge collapsed in Chicago sending 27 railcars crashing from an overpass onto a nearby street where they obliterated a car, killing the two people within.

On July 10, a coal train derailed in Indiana. And on July 16 yet another derailed in North Carolina.

Can the infrastructure across the nation handle the weight of the heavy coal trains—there will be many more of these derailments. Derailments along the Columbia River and Puget Sound are virtually certain.

Do we want that kind of mess polluting the Columbia River and our iconic Puget Sound?

If you have seen the coal trains pass through Edmonds you can tell the engines are running very hard compared to standard rail commerce and emitting larger volumes of dangerous pollutants.

As for coal dust see for yourself in a recent photo of a coal train passing along the Columbia River through Columbia Hills State Park in Washington at

When the coal cars spill they cause a huge cloud of coal dust.

The railroads are required to pay only up to 5 percent of any mitigation work to its train routes, so the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad would be required to pay a very small part of any mitigation the city wants for the safety of its citizens, the rest of us pick up the bill for their obstruction and destruction of our environment.

The state coal lobby continues to claim that US coal exports will simply shift to BC if Washington doesn’t build its own export facilities. But it’s simply not true.

If Canadian ports actually did have available capacity for American coal, US coal interests would already be using it.

But, in fact, coal terminal space in BC is tightly limited, and very little US coal is leaving by way of Canada.

The comment “if we don’t sell the coal to China others will, so why not take the revenue.”  This is false as well because all other coal terminals and infrastructure to deliver coal are working at capacity.

These are only some of my objections to coal trains in the North West and around the country, and why we need a full and comprehensive economic and environmental impact studies completed not only at the coal terminal locations; but also along the tracks from the coalmines to the Canadian boarder.

If you agree then send your request that a comprehensive study be completed to: Army Corps of Engineers - email: or address: PO Box 3755
Seattle, WA  98124-3755
or phone (206) 764-3742, Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Gold Mark - email: and your State and Federal Representatives.


Dennis Lowenthal






Comments (2)
Posted by: Jim Shelton | Jul 24, 2012 11:49

The Federal Railroad Administration database shows that 517 train accidents have occurred in the 4 months Jan-Apr 2012, of which 427 were derailments/collisions. Since about 46% of freight traffic is coal, I suppose it should be expected that many of these 517 accidents will involve coal.  Of course, that means that they will also involve 54% of other stuff that we use/eat.

Posted by: Nathaniel R Brown | Jul 25, 2012 11:39

"Protestors?  Don't you get sick of 'em?"

No, actually, I don't.  I see concerned citizens using their right to be heard and to assemble - that's American democracy at work.

Mr. Pierre seems to have little regard for opinions he doesn't agree with.  Perhspw we should all just stay home?

Sorry - that's not the way it works.

Perhaps a more pertinent question would be, "Constant Curmudgeon?  Don't you get tired of him?"

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