Opinion

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Letter

Increase Safety Standards for Oil Tank Cars

Our Flathead waters and this special place are too valuable to ignore this threat

Highly flammable, explosive, and toxic Bakken crude oil is being transported along the Middle Fork Flathead River by rail every week. A derailment and oil spill in the Middle Fork could have long-term impacts on our clean water, fish and wildlife habitat, recreation, and our communities and local economy.

That’s why American Rivers designated the Middle Fork Flathead one of the top ten most endangered rivers in the nation this year and is asking the public to encourage the Federal Rail Administration and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad to develop a site-specific safety compliance agreement for the Middle Fork.

Shallow aquifers – less than 50 feet and in many places less than 5 feet below the surface – lie along and exchange water with the Middle Fork and mainstem Flathead Rivers. The rivers, aquifers, and floodplain support a network of organisms that help maintain clean water for people, fish, and wildlife.

Flathead Lake is downstream. It is the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River and one of the cleanest large lakes anywhere in populated areas of the world.

Our economy, our environment, and our quality of life depend on protecting these wonderful resources.

The Flathead Lakers, with over 1,500 members, has been working to protect clean water in Flathead Lake and its watershed since 1958. We believe stronger safety measures are needed to protect Flathead waters from an oil train disaster. We support stronger safety standards for all oil tank cars, slower speed limits for oil trains traveling through sensitive areas like the Middle Fork, limits on the number of oil tank cars per train, and additional snow sheds in Glacier Park to reduce the chance of an avalanche-caused derailment. Visit our website to learn more.

Current oil demand has reduced the oil train traffic temporarily, which makes this the perfect time to improve safety in the Middle Fork corridor.

BNSF has assured us their safety measures are adequate, but they have yet to provide the Flathead Lakers and the public with a detailed derailment and spill prevention plan for this steep, winding, avalanche-prone rail corridor.

Our Flathead waters and this special place are too valuable to ignore this threat.

Steve Rosso, Flathead Lakers president
Greg McCormick, Flathead Lakers past president

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