Coal train hearing hits Pasco

Coal train hearing hits Pasco »Play Video
TRI-CITIES, Wash. - Coal has become a hot button issue and there's a push to carry more coal on trains through the Tri-Cities.

A couple dozen trains carrying coal already roll through the Tri-Cities every day. The industry wants to send more our way.

Some people are worried about that.
But not this farm owner.

James Alford said, "Everyone's got to understand the railroad isn't something that's an unregulated business you know, they move things that would be considered much more hazardous than coal."

His land sits right up against the tracks. He was a bit surprised by all of the protests against coal exports.

"Scientifically if there had been something, you would see stronger regulation on the rails," he said.

That's what a hearing in Pasco is about. Determining just what should be studied about transporting coal. The EPA doesn't think raw coal is dangerous and coal dust isn't a problem in open spaces.

The Alford Family has been farming this land for over 50 years and they say they've never had an issue with coal trains that pass through. James says the sand on their property produces more dust than the coals trains do.

It's that very dust is an issue to Helen Yost. She came to Pasco from eastern Idaho just for this meeting.

She said, "Scores and scores of towns and major cities in Montana and Idaho lie on the rail lines between the mines."

In a perfect world, Helen says we wouldn't have anything to do with coal.

"Ultimately it's going to cause climate change after both coal trains and ports spew the area with coal dust," she said.

BNSF is looking to amp up those transports and needs approval to do so.

Saying more coal means a solid economy for everyone.

There is one more hearing scheduled on coal transports. It's in Vancouver, Washington later this month.