"Rising Coal Exports Have Montana Rail Communities Braced for Worst"

"With Asia's energy demands pulling more U.S. coal to West Coast ports, rail-line communities across Montana fear the effects: More train traffic, health problems, noise and congestion."

"BILLINGS, Mont. – The emissions are unhealthy, the noise insufferable. But it's the wait that can be life-threatening.

Every day, 20 freight trains rumble through downtown Billings. Five of those are coal trains – 120 cars stretching a half-mile and carrying 17,000 tons of coal west.

The trains bisect the town, cutting affluent north from poorer and predominantly minority south. The city's only two hospitals sit on the northern half of town, and residents fear that one day a long wait – or a train wreck – could leave a large chunk of the city isolated from medical care.

Ambulance train-400That hasn't happened yet, and train traffic has been manageable so far. But it's about to get far worse, city residents fear. Asia's surging demand for coal could bring up to 42 more coal trains a day through downtown Billings, clogging crossings for up to eight hours daily, local activists predict."

Douglas Fischer reports for the Daily Climate May 3, 2012.

Source: Daily Climate, 05/03/2012