Transition Whatcom

County Impacts

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Have you sent in your first EIS letter? All the other kids are doing it.

From the first report issued from the Teamsters Rail Conference in Fall of 2005 entitled SafeRails Secure America Survey Executive Summery concerns were raised to the security of the nations rail lines: Workers suspect that the rail corporations’  lax attention to safety and security is motivated by profit margins. “Money drives this railroad,” said one Michigan Norfolk Southern worker. “Security costs money. What do you think is going on?” “(BNSF) is not going to increase security because it would cost money,” said another worker from Illinois. “Even though they had record profits, it will not happen unless they are forced.”

In 2009, four years later, a new survey of America’s rail workers reveals that top U.S. rail carriers have failed to close the security gaps that put at stake the safety of rail workers and communities across the country. The survey questions, which asked the workers to evaluate safety and security measures in place on any one workday during the survey period, were identical to the survey questions used in the first Safe Rails / Secure America survey, with the exception of two new survey questions.

SafeRails / Secure America 2 included two rounds of surveys. Workers employed by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation (“BNSF”) and Norfolk Southern Corporation (“Norfolk Southern”) completed surveys between August 25, 2008, and September 19, 2008. Workers employed by CSX Corporation (“CSX”), Kansas City Southern, and Union Pacific Corporation (“Union Pacific”) completed surveys between March 9, 2009, and April 6, 2009. As demonstrated by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe – SafeRails / Secure America 2 table, there are several critical areas in which BNSF appears to be underperforming its peer group—most notably, the areas of employee training and rail car security.

For example, 70 percent of the BNSF BMWED workers surveyed said that they have not been trained regarding their role in the railroad’s Emergency Action Plan or Emergency Response Plan—that is 28 percentage points higher than the industry average and well over the majority mark.

Furthermore, 88 percent of BNSF BMWED workers surveyed reported they have not received any terrorism prevention and response training in the past year—that is 14 percentage points higher than the industry average.

In fact, for these two questions BNSF scored the worst of all the rail carriers, underperforming each of its peers.

Regarding locomotive security, 92 percent of BNSF BLET workers surveyed said they cannot secure the cab against unauthorized access while unoccupied—that is a remarkable 25 percentage points higher than the average for the other rail carriers, excluding BNSF, putting BNSF at the bottom of its peer group.

Sixty percent of BNSF BLET workers surveyed said that their train or equipment was delayed or left unattended for an extended period of time prior to or during their tour of duty, with 57 percent of these workers reporting that hazardous materials were on board the delayed or unattended train. That is five and four percentage points higher, respectively, than the industry average.

Eighty-two percent of BNSF BLET workers surveyed said they noticed other trains or equipment left unattended in yard sidings or along the right-of-way, which is six percentage points higher than the industry average.

In all, BNSF underperformed the industry average by five percentage points or more with respect to ten survey questions.

The company significantly outperformed its peer group (by five or more percentage points) with respect to only two questions—19 percent of BNSF BLET workers surveyed reported seeing trespassers in the yard versus 24 percent for the industry average, and 20 percent of BNSF BMWED workers surveyed reported that there were additional security personnel on duty in the yard or right-of-way on a heightened terrorist alert day versus 13 percent for the industry average.

BNSF Rail Security Disclosures

BNSF’s 2008 Corporate Citizenship Report summarizes the company’s rail security efforts, which include:

• joining with other railroads through the AAR to develop a comprehensive risk analysis and security management plan for all U.S. railroads;

• developing BNSF’s own Security Management Plan and Crisis Management System;

• securing critical infrastructure and assessing high threat urban areas, focusing especially on vulnerabilities in rail facilities in highly populated areas where hazardous materials are moved;

• monitoring contractors through the E-RailSafe program, which provides background checks, security awareness training, and identification cards for contractors working on railroad property;

• maintaining the BNSF On Guard program to promote employee awareness and encourage the reporting of security violations;

• helping to develop Citizens for Rail Security, a community-based rail fan reporting program that enlists rail fans’ help in reporting security violations, trespassers or unusual occurrences;

• maintaining a Trespasser Abatement Program;

• training employees using a security awareness training module, “Securing America’s Railroads”;

• implementing a Security Alert System that warns employees of the severity of a terrorist threat and under which employees are given additional security instructions at higher threat levels; and

• conducting drills with local emergency response personnel.

See Appendix II for BNSF’s 2008 Corporate Citizenship Report’s rail security disclosures.

BNSF workers’ responses on the Safe Rails / Secure America 2 survey, however, raise questions about the effectiveness of its efforts.

For example, BNSF states that one of its key security activities is “securing critical infrastructure,” and says that it has “taken steps to secure critical assets.” However, only nine percent of BNSF BMWED workers surveyed said that BNSF has increased the frequency of inspections at critical infrastructure points, only three percent said that special security measures have been instituted at movable railroad bridges on their territory to protect against unauthorized entry or operations, and only three percent said that bridge tenders on movable bridges have a distress signal to alert authorities of security threats. Only eight percent of BNSF BMWED workers surveyed reported that track and bridge inspectors have received security-related training for the inspection of critical infrastructure along the right-of-way.

These results call into question just what steps BNSF has taken to secure critical infrastructure.

BNSF workers’ surveys also raise questions about the company’s efforts to acknowledge and encourage employee security awareness and action. For example, BNSF explains that it has an “On Guard” program designed “to recognize employees who protect BNSF’s resources, people and facilities.” According to the company’s website, the program is “administered by local crime prevention specialists, who will give alert employees an On Guard pin, and report the action for inclusion in articles in BNSF Today.” Notably, none of the other rail carriers discloses on its website maintaining a program of this kind that recognizes and rewards employee security awareness and reporting.

BNSF workers surveyed, however, report that they are not receiving follow-up reports when they report security concerns to their supervisors. In fact, of the 37 percent of BNSF BLET workers surveyed who said that they have reported security concerns to a railroad supervisor, only 16 percent said they received a follow-up to their report.

While the “On Guard” program may not specify that employees will receive follow-up reports regarding any security concerns they report, BNSF’s failure to follow up with employees after they report security concerns conflicts with the “On Guard” objective of recognizing and encouraging employee security awareness and action.

BNSF also explains that it requires employees to take a mandatory security awareness computer training module called “Securing America’s Railroad,” but only 12 percent of BNSF BMWED workers and 28 percent of BNSF BLET workers surveyed said that they have received any training related to terrorism prevention and response in the past 12 months—and only 27 percent of those BLET workers felt that the training was adequate.

Finally, BNSF discusses that its Security Alert System warns employees of the severity of a terrorist threat to the BNSF network, but when asked if it was a heightened terrorist alert day, 55 percent of the BNSF BLET and BMWED workers surveyed said that they did not know.

The discrepancies between what BNSF says it is doing and what the front-line workers report raise serious questions about whether BNSF’s rail security efforts are reaching the front-line workers.

         And in more recent times:

                  * Forty-four spikes were removed from train tracks in Bellingham, but railroad officials say they discovered the vandalism before any trains could derail. Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokesman Gus Melonas said the railroad is offering rewards of up to $5,000 for information concerning several recent acts of vandalism that damaged railroad property near Bellingham and could have led to train accidents. Seattle Times July 12th, 2011

                  *The main BNSF rail line is shut down through southwest Washington, as BNSF police and inspectors investigate tampering along the railway from north of Vancouver to Chehalis.

Spokesman Gus Melonas says BNSF personnel discovered the tampering shortly before 11 a.m. Monday along that corridor. He says nine trains including Amtrak are being held. A limited number of freight trains are being escorted through at restricted speeds. The first incident was reported near the Longview.

Melonas says police are searching the area for suspicious activity and are investigating further.

He says the main rail lines will be closed until it's determined to be safe. The Columbian September 29, 2011

                * The Oregon International Port of Coos Bay is offering up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for the Nov. 10 vandalism to the Coos Bay rail line that caused a minor derailment.

Those responsible removed hundreds of rail spikes and tie plates through two segments of track, costing the port more than $20,000 in damages related to the stolen materials and repairs, the port says. The World December 17th, 2011

                 * From the meeting minutes interim CEO David Koch reports: As a result of the vandalism, the Port will incur more than $20,000 in damages

associated with the replacement of stolen materials and repairs related to the derailment. The Port and

CBR have been working closely with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to investigate

this crime. Based on consultations with these law enforcement agencies, it has been determined that

offering a cash reward may assist in the identification of the responsible person or persons. Mr. Koch

said staff was looking for Commission approval for the Port to offer and pay a reward up to $5,000

for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person or persons responsible for damage

to or theft of railroad property.

Upon a motion by Commissioner Hampel (second by Commissioner McKeown), the Board of

Commissioners voted unanimously to allow the Port to offer a reward of up to $5,000 for

information leading to the arrest and conviction of a person or persons responsible for damage

or theft of railroad property. Motion carried.

Commissioner Kronsteiner asked if the reward was for this one incident or would it be an ongoing

reward. Mr. Koch said this request is for the current incident, but he would like to have the authority

in the future if similar situations occur. Commissioner Kronsteiner wanted to clarify that it was not an

outstanding reward. Mr. Koch said it would be handled on a case-by-case basis. OREGON INTERNATIONAL PORT OF COOS BAY

Coos Bay, Oregon


Friday, December 9, 2011

The environmental and economic impacts of a train derailment impact could be assessed only after determining what was being shipped in the overturned vessel. With coal, chlorine, and radioactive waste among the various types of hazardous substances routinely carried across our railways, I’m concerned about toxic spills. Considering the controversial nature of the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal, my concern is for railway security as well. The vested interests in this project appear unable to perceive the need and/or unwilling to address the concerns posed by the frontline personnel of the railways. Please consider this history and the present status of railway security, and determine if it will be sufficient to insure safe transportation of 54 million tons of coal per year.

                                                                                     J.C. Walker, Jr.





Ingrid Enschede posted a story in the Birch Bay Watershed and Aquatic Resources Management District on Nov. 30 2012 of the resulting efforts of Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association on Terrell Creek

The story details the reversing of decades of salmon impeded from spawning grounds by inadequate consideration in planning and development. Restoring passage ways and habitats are making a difference in the effort to thwart the declining salmon population. If one looks at the current direction in construction with regards to LEED standards or the auto industry pursuing a greater miles per gallon of their products, or the resurgence in  organic farming throughout the world, an under lying theme of living with nature by recognizing our collective human footprint emerges.

Viewing the Google map in Ms. Enschede’s post, the proximity to the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal’s coal port is disturbing in light of what statistically is known already with regards to coal dust: Whether from day to day operations ( with the best attempts to mitigate the effects ) or from an unintended spill from train derailment or maritime accidents, the vulnerability of a species in decline must be considered both from an ecological and economical point of view if a genuine attempt to pursue the rewards of living with nature for current and future generations are to be realized.

About the same time as Ms. Enschede’s posted the NSEA story, I was walking my dog around our property and saw this: , and being that clarification as to which rail route to Cherry Point will be pursued has yet to be determined, I must ask you to include my neck of the woods and all past , present, and future projects of NSEA and all fish bearing streams as determined by the Department of Fish and Wildlife running parallel or perpendicular to any train tracks in consideration to facilitate the GPT project which could be adversely impacted by multiple daily infusions of coal dust into our waterways.

Please look at the effects of coal dust on the salmon habitat, their eggs, sperm, and numbers of and viability of both eggs and sperm when introduced to increased coal dust and determine what levels are safe for a species in decline. Please determine what plan of action will be instituted if and when your established high levels are reached. Please determine the cost to the fishing industries along with the number of related jobs lost if and when your established high levels are reached, and please make a recommendation as to who’s financial responsibility to monitor habitats and disperse and compensate for said cost if and when your established high levels are reached.

If no action were to be adopted with regards to the proposed GPT coal terminal the uphill struggle to address the declining salmon population would still be the reality with which we live, but with the successful efforts of groups such as NSEA, living with nature could be the key to providing resilience as our legacy.

In Jorgen Randers “2052” the option of short term thinking contrasted against long term thinking is brought to the forefront, where such considerations are deliberated for societal well being. With even the least amount of belief in the “extreme/new normal” events of 2012 being connected with climate change, please also consider the following. It is not our future we profit from.

I mention this to point to expected understandings of a clients appetite for Carbon products to possibly be reduced once said understandings associate Carbon use with their children’s health detriments. China would have every motive to opt for a green/low Carbon world while slowing down a run away economy as well. This sort of capability, to alter their need and alter the demand, concerns me. Short term returns rely upon a consistency of demand. I’m asking you to study the effect of altered, as in , no demand, for coal. Setting on Cherry Point. Piles and piles of coal nobody wants, because it’s screwing up the world for everybody and all. I did some googling the other day about what coal becomes when you burn it up, and the list I got came up with included Mercury, Cadmium, Sulfur Dioxide Nitrogen Oxides. Also some particular matter, like fly ash and Arsenic, some VOC’s, and a dash of Uranium. Could you do a study on how much of the stuff is staying in China, and how it would contribute to the well being of their children, and how much is going to make it back across the ocean in 5-10 days after being burned, and wind up affecting the children in Whatcom County with a myriad array of adverse conditions. What are the safe levels for children to consume in their diet or to play around. Could you study the current levels in Lake Whatcom of the chemicals I listed, and do a rough estimate of what will be coming per year on the expected amount of coal being shipped per year. I wonder how long it would go on for? Is that a realistic expectation? These are not unintended consequences, their predictable for the most part. Certainly quarterly profits are jeopardized in such a scenario, and the children.

“2052” contrast the ability of a government like China’s to respond much quicker to change than a Democracy can, so it becomes paramount to chose wisely with how profits are derived going forward, if we’re to turn around and profit from our future, shared as it may be.

Jeffrey S. Margolis 5455 Potter Road-Van Zandt Deming, WA 98244 GPT/Custer Spur EIS c/o Ch2M Hill 1100 112th Avenue NE, Suite 400 Bellevue, WA 98004 I, Jeffrey ...S. Margolis am seeking answers pertaining to transportation impacts associated with the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT). I own and operate, Everybody’s Store, a small country store that sells groceries, deli foods including sandwiches, and gifts. I serve the local residents of Van Zandt, but in this part of the world rural businesses rely on regional travelers for a substantial part of our business. My store is located very near where the BNSF tracks cross State Route 9. SR-9 is a major truck route. It is well documented that the main rail line running along the coast or parallel to I-5 is at or nearly at capacity at many sections along the route. If the coal terminal at Cherry Point is built, it is inevitable that additional rail traffic will use this secondary line that runs in front of my business. The traffic delays on SR 9 caused by these additional trains will, not only wreak havoc on the trucking industry, it will harm my business by interrupting the flow of customers to my store. In fact, with the portent of major highway reconstruction, it has the potential of destroying my business. All sophisticated industrial systems employ redundant back up systems. For the sake of discussion the rail line running parallel to SR-9 is a contingency to be known herein as, The Farmland Route. Would not a coal train route inevitably require massive reconstruction of SR-9? Therefore, I am asking that all the transportation alternatives that will be required in Whatcom County if GPT is permitted be analyzed in the EIS. Specifically, I am asking that all the impacts of additional coal or “Unit Train” traffic on the BNSF rails running from Burlington to Sumas be part of the EIS scope, especially the economic impacts. January 12, 2013 My argument proceeds accordingly. Could the entire Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railroad system in Whatcom County, coast route and farmland route, from Wickersham, to Sumas, for a number of reasons, be employed by GPT and hence trigger multiple adverse consequences? Are there intrinsic adverse and cumulative impacts to either the Coast or Farmland Routes? How might they be mitigated? Additionally, might attempts at mitigation be sufficiently difficult as to suggest that no action be taken because the financial and cumulative degradation to the environment overwhelm the benefit of approving the project? Additionally it is conceivable that transportation impacts similar to those found in Whatcom County, are shared beyond. My family owns and manages a 5 acre spread in Van Zandt which includes; pasture, garden, a general store and the family home. The store is situated on SR-9, just north of mile marker 77, less than 75 ft. from the BNSF rail crossing. However difficult to measure, we know first hand, that people treasure the bucolic character of this location. We are concerned about the survivability of our enterprise and the milieu, the bucolic nature of the Southfork Valley. In order to maintain the smooth flow of commercial and passenger traffic could Unit Train impacts on highway safety and mobility, command highway renewal? Would modernizing this corridor obliterate small towns, dislocate populations, alter land values and transform geography and threaten endangered species, throughout the Whatcom County and a renewed statewide corridor? In addition to my personal attachment to this place, I have a long and extensive history of civic participation in transportation issues. Beginning in the early years of this century the “Foothills Steering Committee” of which I was a member, was coincidentally involved in monitoring the proposal for a Washington State Commerce Corridor* (See: Final Report Washington Commerce Corridor Feasibility Study Washington State Department of Transportation Prepared by: Wilbur Smith & Associates of Bellevue Washington.) This Commerce Corridor proposal was determined, by the consultant, WSA, to be infeasible. Many of the elements of the Commerce Corridor attempt, resemble potentialities inherent in the GPT project, namely a safe and mobile statewide transportation plan. On May 9, 2011, the Bellingham Herald quoted BNSF spokesperson, Suann Lundberg, she stated, in regard to delays at grade crossings for emergency vehicles, “we could not know which line the coal trains would use...we can’t tell you...what the market will bring on lines that are shared by all different commodities.” In her address to capacity challenges Lundberg is emphatically stating that BNSF will not reveal because they cannot guarantee how every part of the BNSF system will be employed in service to GPT. For the rest of us it becomes all the more logical and imperative to scrutinize all BNSF routes in Whatcom County, including the Farmland Route. Are there significant impacts upon eastern Whatcom County that the GPT application refuses to engage? BNSF does have track rights in lower British Columbia. Presently hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on overpasses to specifically improve unit train mobility from Abbottsford, BC, just north of Sumas, to the Westshore coal port. This Canadian rail corridor can link with the Farmland route creating a connection through Whatcom County to the Powder River Basin. BNSF track along SR-9 in eastern Whatcom County is presently being reconditioned with wider and heavier “Ribbon Rail” that enables the rail bed to support the extraordinary weight of coal trains. Could this newly rehabilitated rail corridor in the eastern Whatcom County farmlands, paralleling much of the Nooksack River from Wickersham to Sumas be a fait accompli, a surreptitious coal route in the making? The same might also more or less hold true were BNSF to find a cross county route to Lynden and the Custer Spur. This discussion gains further validity from perusing the: CROSS BORDER FREIGHT RAIL IMPROVEMENT STUDY, produced for the Whatcom County Council of Governments (COG) May 31, 2011, by the CASCADIA CENTER OF DISCOVERY INSTITUTE. This report concludes, cognizant of GPT, that the Burlington to Sumas to Westshore Rail corridor should, even at the cost of 100’s of millions of dollars be considered. Early on the study forecasts on p.9 that random freight congestion is endemic. BNSF must accept adaptive regional strategies to handle GPT and Westshore coal traffic. See pp. 26-27. The report continues, “Option B. Routing some BNSF traffic through Sumas to Thornton Yard. Several freight stake holders suggested a feasibility analysis should be conducted on routing some freight traffic to Thornton Yard along the Burlington Sumas line to the border with a connection to CPR and SRY to CN. The line is 44.7 miles and served by a daily BNSF run. The line has value because of the international crossing. BNSF interchanges with Canadian Pacific Railway and the Southern Railway of British Columbia at Sumas...In our interviews with BNSF and through a review of previous freight rail studies, the costs of upgrading the line from Burlington to Sumas would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Recommendation: The International Mobility Transportation Commission rail committee explore the opportunity to enhance north- south capacity of the BNSF line through Whatcom County and into Vancouver, B.C. by reviewing operational and investment strategies with the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor.” In an earlier report prepared for the Cascadia Project in 2000: The Cascadia Transportation Plan: Increased Higher Speed Passenger and Freight Rail Service. Table 14 on p.61 re: Expected increase in freight train traffic across the US-Canada Border on the BNSF Line on the Cascadia Corridor between Vancouver, B.C. and Everett, WA which are DIVERTABLE TO THE CASCADE FOOTHILLS CORRIDOR FROM SUMAS TO SNOHOMISH WASHINGTON. This report reveals the utility of a Farmland route. To wit Richard Ford, Chairman of the Washington State Transportation Commission, in June of 2012 wrote to Matt Rose, BNSF CEO, suggesting that bottlenecks and adverse impacts echoing throughout the state, owing in part to “Unit” coal trains, were unacceptable. WSTC furthers our case to anticipate use of the Farmland route. Returning to BNSF, spokesperson Lundberg’s equivocation aside, what is the case? Can the Coastal Route be the only possible route through Whatcom County? “YES” or “NO”, is there is “ANY” possibility for using of the Farmland Route? If so, then any and all impacts in eastern Whatcom as well as Skagit County must be must be identified and considered as an integral element of the GPT design. The prospect of using the Farmland Route also proceeds from an evaluation of supply, demand and storage capacity. The design of the port itself allows for inferences as to how much can be stored, shipped and sold. Does the coal delivery and rail network match up to the port’s design? The calculus or interaction of these variables needs to be examined for their consequences: Consider the wharf. The proposed 3000 ft. wharf might berth four coal ships: three Cape class and one Panamax. GPT forecasts handling 49 mt. annually. Is it feasible to move more than 49 million tons from a wharf of this dimension? If so, then that might actually provide further necessity to recognize that an expanded transportation system might make sense. Perhaps the Kooragang Coal Port in Waratagh, Australia, (which berths 4 cape size coal ships and handles 105 million tons per year) provides a sufficiently analogous example. Is there enough similarity to allow for a valid inference that capacity at GPT could increase beyond the stated amount and thus put additional pressure upon GPT to utilize an expanded rail delivery system? (See: attachment GPT Capacity loading-ports.aspx. GPT is a complex operating system. Port and rail are interdependent, synergistic and realistically compose a single entity. Parts of a machine must be synchronized with each other. One part cannot function without the other balanced to it. It is simply impossible to detach the transportation component and concomitant impacts from the existence or construction of GPT. For the sake of its own intrinsic reliability all impacts need to be regarded and simultaneously understood in order to engineer and maintain the functionality of the system. When actual possibilities are acknowledged then the downstream nodes for environmental assessment become evident. When details are studied operational feasibility or infeasibility reveals itself. Logically, the SSA permit application, absent items pertaining to offsite transportation could be considered incomplete. Does it need to be resubmitted with attention to transportation impacts? Does not the excision of fundamental elements of a plan necessarily lead to an end product predicament? Generally speaking the etiology of genetic fallacy is: Circumstance ignored, adverse consequence, damage multiplies. This is why major industrial systems employ redundant safeguards. Is not GPT putting the cart before the horse? Will granting a permit to GPT as this juncture be equivalent to approving a permit for a new rail corridor through eastern Whatcom County without environmental review? Is this not the sort of circumstance that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against in its attention to disputes pertaining to the Tongue River Railroad? The challenge of freight rail growth, the possibility of increased demand for coal in Asia and competition for space and bottlenecks in the BNSF network, compel the SSA–BNSF partnership to establish additional track and broader routes. See: CROSS-­‐BORDER FREIGHT RAIL IMPROVEMENT STUDY Produced for the Whatcom Council of Governments May 31, 2011 CASCADIA CENTER OF DISCOVERY INSTITUTE. Can it not be said that there must be a need to utilize, amend or provide for an alternate transportation route to the coastal route intermittently, temporarily or permanently between Mt. Vernon and the Custer Spur in the future? Will not the Farmland route, far from being an unspoken component, actually be part and parcel of the established web of functional segments that serve GPT from mine head to portside? If so mustn’t its cumulative impacts be considered in the EIS? The truth of the matter must be set out at the inception. Evasion of facts at the outset compromises the functionality of the system downstream. In: Northern Plains Resource Council v. The Surface Transportation Board, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals remanded and stated in response to the preemptive decision of the Surface Transportation Board, ... “in evaluating the new TRRC III (Tongue River Railroad) application, the Board still did not review the new evidence of operational and safety concerns, and instead considered the Four Mile Creek Alternative as “currently authorized,” and the “no-build” alternative considered in TRRC III. By the time the Board prepared the DSEIS in October 2004, the Board was well aware of the concerns that the TRRC and BNSF had raised about the viability of the Four Mile Creek Alternative from a safety and operational perspective. Moreover, in 2004, the Board was aware that the TRRC had asked to suspend proceedings due to financial problems in 2000, after which review was suspended for almost three years. The Board also did not revisit the financial viability of the Four Mile Creek Alternative when it considered it the “no-build” alternative in TRRC III in light of the changed financial circumstances. Thus, we conclude that the Board’s decision in TRRC III was arbitrary and capricious in light of the evidence it had before it regarding the TRRC and BNSF safety concerns that arose subsequent to the Board’s approval of TRRC II. [35] To summarize our holdings for Section II, we find that the Board’s decision not to review new evidence of oper-21480 NORTHERN PLAINS RESOURCE v. TONGUE RIVER RR operational and safety concerns for the Four Mile Creek Alternative in TRRC III to be arbitrary and capricious, and we reverse and remand on that ground. We affirm the Board on Petitioners’ other railroad claims.” Once again our claim that an enhanced Farmland Route must be acknowledged stems from the 9th Circuits reasoning that reflects upon environmental consideration for new, or in our case profound construction prior to rather than after the fact. On behalf of the Washington State Department of Ecology, Director Ted Sturdevant, on January 4, 2013 in a letter to Ray LaHood, US. Secretary of Transportation and Ken Blodgett, Chair of the Surface Transportation Board, urged them to review all “direct indirect and cumulative impacts” of transporting coal from the Powder River Basin through the State of Washington. To take this matter a step further: Absent this piece of the puzzle in planning for the future, the Farmland Route might as well be called, “Tongue River IV”. This is not merely a problem for BNSF. This gap in planning indicates the incompleteness of the basic application for construction of GPT. Although this subject is fitting for an EIS, transportation beyond the Custer Spur does not arise directly in the application. Some might consider this absurd, illegal or immoral but that is not the issue. Must not this fundamental flaw be rectified and evaluated for the sake of the functionality of the system itself? We assume at this juncture that rail capacity issues and transportation impacts are inescapably justified in being considered a fullfledged issue for the EIS. Standard operating procedure points to SSA-BNSF: needing, in the near and distant future to avoid a bottleneck south of Bellingham; employing the Farmland route either partially or incrementally for trains either empty or full, from Mt, Vernon through Burlington and proceed at 10 mph around Sedro Woolley and continue then traveling north through eastern Whatcom County, eventually to GPT? Having both documented and logically established that transportation impacts are inherently part of the GPT plan, it is fitting to examine: Geographical, Agricultural, Environmental, Social and Economic impacts along the Farmland route. GEOGRAPHY: The geography of the Farmland Route through the Skagit County’s Samish River Watershed and Whatcom County’s Southfork Nooksack River Watershed is characterized by extensive wetlands. Rainfall is in the range of 65 inches per year. The rail line runs up a narrow valley and is flanked by mountains on the east and west and the tracks more or less intermittently straddle one waterway or another. Suffice to say that the earth, characterized by a thin veneer of topsoil overlaying impervious clay, becoming sufficiently saturated during September through April storms, that BNSF trains often travel at 10 mph to avoid damaging the rail bed and skidding off the tracks. Were the Farmland route to be employed then it is compulsory to ask the extent to which the coal train would impede traffic at seven strategic grade crossings in Whatcom county where the tracks intersect with SR-9? Simply put, the amount of time it takes a mile and a half length train to cross a point at a given speed is the same as the amount of time it would take someone traveling at that speed to go a mile and a half. At the normal coal train speed of 35 miles per hour, this is slightly over two and a half minutes, at 20 miles per hour it's four and a half minutes, and at 10 miles per hour it is nine minutes. Now let us consider two hypothetical worse case scenarios wherein all of the coal bound for GPT comes through the Farmland Route at the rates of either 49mt or the extreme 105mt per year. From, we know that there are approximately 100 cars per mile, and 100 tons of coal per car. So a mile and a half train would be 150 cars, and 15,000 tons of coal. For the 48 million ton case, we take the 48 million tons of coal and divide by 15,000 to get 3,200 trains per year. We then divide by 365 to get approximately 8.7 trains per day. Divide 24 hours by 8.7 and we have a result of about one train every 2.8 hours. This assumes a loop; if the trains return on the same route, trains will be twice as frequent, for one train every 1.4 hours. Repeating this process for 105 million tons of coal, we get results of approximately one train every 1.3 hours if on a loop, or one train every .7 hours or every 42 minutes if returning. According to WSDOT there are 52 “PUBLIC” at grade crossings in Whatcom County. Seven of these crossings on SR-9 may be considered strategic: Acme, North of Acme, Van Zandt, Mt. Baker Hwy SR-542, George Road SR-9, City of Nooksack, and Sumas. Either WSDOT or BNSF should have a list of scores of non-public grade crossings. Suffice to say, that under a worse case, in a medical emergency an ambulance could be detained by as much as 18 minutes in administering to an emergency response. On SR-9 this could even be multiplied due to the coincidence of multiple crossings at, let us say, disturbing intervals. Keep in mind that we are only acknowledging state route grade crossings while there are scores of county road and private crossings. In May of 2011 Washington State Patrol Officer, Tom Pillow, president of WSP Trooper’s Association, wrote in a Bellingham Herald OpEd piece about the known tendency of truckers to try to “beat” crossing gates/trains across the tracks to avoid the delay and attendant expense in waiting for trains to pass by. By my computations a truck on its way from Sumas to Sedro Woolley traveling at an average rate of 45 mph, that became caught behind a unit train traveling at an average rate of 30 mph in Sumas would be delayed, coincidentally eight times at each grade crossing between these two cities. No doubt motorists as well as truckers might often race to beat the train. Safety issues aside, one has to estimate the annual expense of increased wage and fuel costs. Business ordinarily looks at wage and fuel cost in terms of it share the overall cost of production. In this case there is no expansion of production. The cost, whatever it is brings about zero increase in production. It is a 100 percent loss to the gross product. The loss has to be recouped through increasing the price to the buyer. One can surely capture the drift of this argument, ie., that enormous impacts on the Gross Domestic Product, by virtue of increased cost of production and inflationary pressure must be offset or mitigated by dismantling obstacles to truck freight (not to mention passenger vehicles) mobility. Is the solution to removing obstacles to freight mobility and emergency management the reconstruction of the SR-9 highway and rail corridor? How does this play out when looking at the total mine head to GPT Custer Spur? Is the Farmland Route feasible? Can GPT be served exclusively by the Coastal Route? Chapter 6 of the Whatcom County Comprehensive plan attends to transportation and the implicit mandate of the County is to ensure transportation safety and mobility. There are engineering standards for assessing mobility and we request a complete transportation analysis which takes into consideration the types and volume of traffic that could possibly be impeded throughout Whatcom County under any and all circumstances. AGRICULTURE: Sales of Whatcom County agricultural products average $325M annually. To what extent will the BNSF/GPT network impact Whatcom Farmlands? With regard to agricultural impacts: According to G. Naidoo and Y. Naidoo published in ’Biomedical and Life Sciences Volume 13, Number 5, Coal Dust Pollution Effects on Wetland Tree Species in Richards Bay, South Africa “in this study, the effects of coal dust on four, sympatric, wetland tree species in Richards Bay Harbour were investigated. We tested the hypothesis that leaf micromorphology influenced dust accumulation and that coal dust occluded stomata and reduced photosynthetic performance of three mangroves, Avicennia marina, Bruguiera gymnorrhiza and Rhizophora mucronata, and a mangrove associate, Hibiscus tiliaceus. To investigate leaf micromorphology, leaf blade material of the four species was prepared following standard procedures and viewed under scanning electron microscopy. Gas exchange and chlorophyll fluorescence measurements were made at saturating light (>1000 μmol m−2 s−1) and high temperature (>25 °C) on leaves that were either covered or uncovered with coal dust. There was no evidence of occlusion of stomata by dust. Dust accumulation in A. marina and H. tiliaceus was exacerbated by the presence of a dense mat of trichomes on the undersurface of the leaves, as well as by the sticky brine secreted by salt glands in the former species. Coal dust significantly reduced CO2 exchange, Photosystem II (PS II) quantum yield and electron transport rate (ETR) through PS II in A. marina and H. tiliaceus but not in the other two mangroves. Reduction in photosynthetic performance was attributed to reduction in light energy incident on the photosynthetic tissues. Given a 3% loss of coal per trip it behooves adjudicators to identify and compute likely impacts of coal dust that is dispersed on farmland along the rail lines. Inasmuch as we have reports that coal dust wafting off piles at Westshore lands on Point Roberts it is equally important to do an analysis of the possible dispersion of dust from storage piles on site at GPT upon farmlands within a 5 mile radius. WATER & ENDANGERED SPECIES: The Southfork of the Nooksack River is home to endangered Chinook Salmon. Both Nooksack and Lummi Tribes have a fiduciary interest in preserving water quality for the sake of the salmon. The tribes must be consulted if the Farmland Route is to be used. What are the ramifications of water seeping from coal cars affecting aquifers and waterways. The Endangered Oregon Spotted Frog is only found in eight locations in Washington including one located at the headwaters of the Samish River. SOCIETY: The Farmland Route is a necessary contingency and the social and economic impacts of compensating for and mitigating adverse effects should be examined for their transformative and monumental consequences. We have explained the challenges to transportation safety and mobility. Emergency vehicles could be stopped in their tracks, passenger traffic would be delayed and commercial traffic would suffer continuous expenses for additional labor and fuel. Surely the need for highway reconstruction from the northern to the southern limits of SR-9 in Whatcom County is obvious. This contingency received investigation in: The Final Report Washington Commerce Corridor Feasibility Study Washington State Department of Transportation Prepared by: Wilbur Smith & Associates. The WCC study provides graphic possibilities including the reconstruction of SR-9. Highway redevelopment complete with multiple lanes and at least seven strategic overpasses soaring above the BNSF tracks. This scenario needs to be examined for its cumulative impacts. This enhanced corridor would pave over towns such as; Acme, Van Zandt and Nooksack. Would not property have to be acquired, businesses and family lives be disrupted and need to be relocated? In what way might property values; owing to the constant noise and perpetual nuisance of coal trains blocking passage across county roads and private crossings, shift? HEALTH: To wit, in eastern Whatcom County the tracks come within close proximity to the Acme Elementary School, the Mt. Baker High School, Nooksack Elementary School and Nooksack High School. Noise will interfere with student’s attention and learning. Every intersection calls for 4 horn blasts from a locomotive. Round the clock noise will disrupt sleep patterns of everyone residing in the narrow and constrained Southfork Valley. Such events lead to reduced productivity and in some cases, personality disorder. Are we willing to pay this price? ECONOMIC: Needless to say, what happens on the Farmland Route in Whatcom County is a harbinger of what may transpire across the coal transportation network. In addition to the insurmountable environmental challenges that Wilbur Smith & Assoc. unveiled, what ultimately led them to conclude that the Commerce Corridor was infeasible, was the astronomical service on the debt for undertaking such a massive project. Compounding their ominous prognosis further was the portent of cavalier foreign ownership. Foreign ownership of highways in other parts of the globe is often characterized by exploitive management practices that neglect proper maintenance while imposing and siphoning off toll income. Smith and Associates forecasted that the imposition of tolls would then promote overuse of I-5 and drive up maintenance expenses there. In the end either our ability to repair I-5 could be impaired or fresh sources of revenue would have to be derived, all owing to the drain on transportation funds to pay for a new SR-9 Commerce Corridor. It is up to the Whatcom County Council, the State of Washington and the United States Army Corp of Engineers to evaluate all of the queries submitted above and decide whether the cumulative impacts are sufficiently significant to overshadow the cost if not the ability to mitigate them. Yours very truly, Jeffrey S.  Margolis


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