Coal Development and Transportation in Montana

By Beacon Staff

You have probably heard arguments from some individuals and groups that are critical of the proposed increase in coal movement through Montana by rail. One of the concerns is the health issues caused by coal moving through cities and towns. Coal has been moving through Montana on a regular basis since the early 70s. Coal has been moving from the mines to the manufacturing centers in the east since before Montana was a state. At one time a home in Libby substantially decreased in value because of health concerns related to asbestos. Sheridan and Gillette Wyoming are railroad terminals that move massive amounts of coal through them every year. Homes are at a premium in both of these towns.

Another argument is that increased coal traffic on the rails will cause congestion. Congestion is not caused by coal. When the economy improves there will be an increased number of trains carrying lumber, grain and automobiles that could all add to congestion. Railroads should be approached about constructing overpasses and underpasses and other means to eliminate congestion that may be caused by projected traffic increases.

There has been much emphasis placed on the need for good-paying jobs in Montana. Railroad jobs pay wages that allow rail employees to provide a good standard of living for their families. Railroad employees can expect to retire from their jobs. Much of the income railroad workers earn stay in local communities. Don’t overlook the tax revenue these jobs bring to Montana.

If health or congestion issues are not realistic could it be certain groups or individuals just want to kill all coal production and movement in and through Montana. A few with a self serving agenda should not be allowed to stand in the way of hundreds of jobs in coal production and transportation.

Fran Marceau,
Montana AFL-CIO District 1 Executive Board Member

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