LaVerne Sultz’s recent letter to the editor, “Improve Protections along Scenic Railways” brings up some important topics about the transportation of crude oil through Montana. However, the letter misses the mark on several significant points.
At BNSF, we too want to prevent every incident from occurring. That’s why our mainline track is visually inspected at least four times weekly, hazardous materials trains are given special handling protocols and procedures, state of the art detector equipment is installed across our network, and why we invest millions of dollars in maintenance and safety technology each year.
Since 1980, accidents on the railroad have declined nearly 80 percent, and the last four years were the safest on record for BNSF. Last year, 99.997 percent of all hazardous materials shipped on BNSF reached their destination without incident or release.
Additionally, BNSF has developed and maintains an avalanche safety program to prevent avalanche related derailments. In the last five years, BNSF has provided emergency response and safety training to more than 725 Montana first responders and regularly sponsors or participates in various spill exercises and drills.
In Whitefish, BNSF has placed thousands of feet of boom, current buster, oil skimmers, storage tanks, and an industrial fire-fighting trailer. In coordination with Glacier National Park, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other state and local agencies, BNSF has developed a Geographic Response Plan to be used in the unlikely event of an accidental release.
Private investment in BNSF infrastructure benefits all of our customers –including Amtrak – regardless of the type of cargo they ship, all the while making rail transportation safer, and more fuel efficient. In fact, since 2000, BNSF has invested over $50 billion in safety technology, preventative maintenance, new track, bridges, and locomotives.
As a common carrier, BNSF is legally obligated to carry all regulated products including the fuels people use every day to heat their homes and power the buses, cars, and airplanes that bring nearly three million visitors to the area each year. However, transportation of crude oil makes up less than 4 percent of the total volume BNSF moves each year. Agricultural products like wheat and soy beans, consumer products like washing machines and televisions make up a much larger part of our transportation portfolio.
Safety is not just a priority at BNSF, but an engrained value that influences every activity we undertake. BNSF employees live, work, and recreate in the area, and share a commitment to protecting our environment. To learn more about BNSF Railway and the steps we take to ensure we protect the communities in which we operate, please visit BNSF.com/communities.
Ross Lane, regional director of public affairs
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.