Coal Spill Raises Questions About Boosting Exports

Originally published on July 5, 2012 6:53 am

RICHLAND, Wash. - This week crews are cleaning up about 30 train cars full of coal that overturned near Mesa , in Eastern Washington. The accident has raised questions about proposed increased train shipments of coal through the nearby Columbia River Gorge.

Huge machinery had to be trucked in from the Tri-Cities to clean up the black dusty mess in the rural burg east of Yakima. Car loads of coal overturned and damaged the tracks there.

Philip Rigdon is the deputy director of the Yakama Nation’s Department of Natural Resources. He says the tribes are concerned about proposals to increase shipments of coal from the interior states through the Columbia River Gorge and then on to Asia.

“You’re going to have accidents," Rigdon says. "What happens if this is along the Columbia River, and resources that, in the middle of our fishing season and in a time when our salmon are moving up?”

BNSF railroad spokesman Gus Melonas says crews will be cleaning up coal and wrecked railcars for the next three weeks. About 30 cars spilled coal from the 125-car train. He says the company is investigating.

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio

Photos by Courtney Flatt of EarthFix.

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