A Series of Misinformation on Rail Activity

The Daily News recently published the first of a three-part series examining one of the more outlandish allegations in the state’s final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Millennium Bulk Terminals project: the notion that the trains serving the proposed Longview terminal will increase the estimated risk of cancer for people living in the surrounding area. Both the Alliance and BNSF already refuted in exhaustive detail these allegations, which are troubling for several reasons.

First, DOE’s assertion regarding a maximum 16 train trips into Longview is seemingly an indictment against rail service across the state, which transports grain, lumber, Boeing aircraft fuselages, and the consumer products we all rely on every day. In addition to freight, thousands of people in region ride Amtrak or the commuter rail systems that use the same or similar locomotives every day. Are we saying people near those tracks are in danger as well? Seems more likely that the state is picking which rail activity they want to condemn based upon commodity, which is simply not right.

Remember, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) just a few months ago welcomed their own trains in Seattle that are virtually identical to the locomotives that will be used to transport materials in an out of Longview. Neither train system poses any significant cancer risk to communities, but the state did not report on this factor in their analysis of WSDOT rail traffic, only in their comments for Millennium Bulk Terminals. (See our infographic on the state “playing favorites” here.)

Second, the article ignores the fact that trains are the most environmentally sensitive way to move products, with far fewer diesel emissions and more fuel efficiency than trucks. The assertion that any single resident would be constantly exposed to train traffic and diesel emissions is disingenuous given the technologies employed to prevent train idling. BNSF’s train’s meet federal “Tier 4” standards which means they are more fuel efficient, and emit 70% less than prior trains, even newer trains produce 90% less emissions, a monumental decrease. In comparison to using hundreds, if not thousands, of truck to haul resources, freight trains are four times more fuel efficient than trucks, and only account for 0.6% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

The Daily News’ series only serves to further spread misinformation about freight rail traffic to a project that would both boost economic opportunities  and take steps towards following the state’s legacy of environmental stewardship.