LETTER: Effects of Coal Mining

By Beacon Staff

Development of the coal industry in eastern Montana will affect farming and tourism industries. You might wonder how?

As both political parties push for more “dirty” coal development to create jobs and a better Montana economy, it will mean that there will be a increase in the number of trains that travel through the Flathead River scenic canyon corridor, Columbia Falls, Whitefish, et al, making a racket for the entire day and night, on the way to Washington state to deliver the coal to Pacific Ocean port cities for loading onto ships to China. These travel paths/sites are where tourists stay while skiing on Whitefish Mountain, hiking in Glacier National Park and The Bob, and fishing in and floating on the Flathead River.

My personal efforts on this issue revolve around my support for the Montana farmers who will suffer less available train cars to ship their wheat to those same port cities for shipment, at higher cost in competition with the coal companies who can pay higher prices. It is particularly bad for farmers since they must get their wheat to market in a timely fashion before spoilage sets in.

Ancillary to that fact is my concern for eliminating “dirty” coal usage due to its enormous air-polluting and global warming factors, which melt away glaciers in Glacier National Park, eliminate wildlife habitat food supply there, and leave little reason for tourists to visit.

Everything is tied together in the ecosystem.

My questioning of the train company management about their contingency plans if there is a train derailment in The Canyon and a coal spill into the Flathead River resulted in no viable plan to remove coal from the Flathead River and prevent toxic water pollution all the way downstream into Flathead Lake. So much for fishing and river floating after that!

People have to decide if adding coal mining jobs in Eastern Montana is worth a loss of farming jobs statewide and a reduction of tourism dollars in Northwestern Montana.

Bill Baum
Hungry Horse

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