September General Meeting Minutes (Coal Train Forum)

River Road Community Organization
September 9, 2012; General Membership Meeting Minutes
River Road Annex

Continue reading for a summary of the meeting’s discussion about coal trains and their potential impacts on the River Road neighborhood.

38 total present

1. Introductions.
2. Announcements
Tuula Rebhahn – successful garden work party at River Road/El Camino del Rio Elementary. Thanks to Global Delights and El Panderia Santiago for donations of coffee and food. The new School Garden Project sends their thanks to River Road neighbors for helping revitalize the garden for another school year.
Will Dixon – The RRCO Pancake Breakfast was a success, especially with support and help from non-board members and members of Oakleigh Meadows Cohousing group. Thanks to Global Delights, Corner Market, Springfield Creamery, Grizzlie’s Granola, Nearly Normal’s for donations of coffee and food. Feedback has been that this has been one of the best pancake breakfasts in the neighborhood’s history!
Juan Carlos Valle – Expressed interest in coal train issue as one that affects his neighborhood in South Eugene as well as his interests as a River Road property owner. He is running for City Council, Ward 2.
Bev Barr – Oregon Passenger Rail upcoming meeting about building NW rail corridor, Wed Sept 19 in the Atrium Building 5 – 7 PM. Hear latest about planning and give input about what you need most in train service.
Beyond Toxics – Give input about coal trains at Eugene City Council meeting, Sept 24 and Oct 8. Show up before 7:30 to sign up to speak in the forum. Downtown Library, Bascom-Tykeson Room

3. Forum
Jon Belcher introduced topic & speakers – we are here to learn about the issues ourselves and have the opportunity to make a community decision about what our priorities are.
Carleen Reilly on the Port of Coos Bay. The Port of Coos Bay declined to attend the forum to offer the argument for coal trains in the region. They first stated it was because they needed at least 15 minutes to present. We offered them 15 minutes, but they still declined. They did provide information about the project and a copy of their proposed resolution to the Eugene City Council.
Many other materials, including contact lists for media and elected officials are being provided by RRCO tonight.
Bev Barr – Information on the coal train route from Union Pacific
Peabody Energy is mining coal in Montana, shipping it to customers in South Korea through a contract with Union Pacific Railroad
Route: Portland to Eugene (via Salem, Albany, Junction City), transfer at the rail yards at Chambers in Eugene, then west to Coos Bay. Map is passed around.*
Currently this is the same route as Amtrak
Estimated train length: About 1.3 miles
*Request from audience to put this map on RRCO website.

Merlyn Hough – Lane Regional Air Protection Agency, Director
Four issues are of concern to LRAPA:
Coal dust – What technology will be employed to control dust? What will the impact be?
Impact on local traffic – increase in engine idling as cars wait for trains to pass
Diesel emissions from locomotives – Trains are relatively efficient in terms of emissions, but we will have more of them.
Coal-fired power plant emissions in Asia – can impact our air quality
Does LRAPA have jurisdiction?
We don’t have jurisdiction over interstate commerce – but we have spoken up in other cases outside our jurisdiction to protect air quality. Examples: Slash-and-burn forestry, field burning, fuel emissions standards.
The LRAPA board has not taken an official position on the coal train issue yet.
Q & A with Merlyn (all paraphrased):
Q: What is the possibility of covering coal cars?
A: The rail company has committed to using best practices to transport coal, which include covering or treatment to form a crust over the coal.
Q: What are the health impacts of coal dust?
A: Pound for pound, diesel emissions are a greater health concern. Coal dust is a coarser particle, our bodies are more effective at filtering out large particles. If a larger quantity of coal dust exists, it could provide a larger risk than other pollutants.
Q: Is LRAPA examining the long-term effects of coal dust on soil?
A: LRAPA is trying to weigh the economic benefits of coal trains versus their environmental impacts. We want to help decision makers at the state level see this part of the picture.
Q: Is it part of LRAPA’s job to weigh benefits, instead of just providing objective scientific opinions?
Q: Would LRAPA come out with a stronger statement for or against coal trains once health impacts are known?
A: LRAPA’s priorities are air toxins and air quality. Railways are a relatively small percent of the problem. We don’t directly make decisions.
Q: How will you quantify coal dust from trains and from coal burning in Asia?
A: LRAPA always monitors air quality in the background. We do a comprehensive railway emissions inventory every three months.
Q: Do you know how many trains are coming through Eugene now?
A: LRAPA measures train traffic by the amount of fuel used, so we don’t know exact train numbers. Details are hard to get from UP and Burlington.

Bob Ferris – Cascadia Wildlands, Executive Director
Worked on coal train issue for two years in Bellingham.
This issue is a perfect example of Naomi Klein’s thesis in The Shock Doctrine: Corporations take opportunity from crises to lower environmental standards.
In this case, the crisis is the unemployment rate. We all need to look at the facts, do calculations, and make our own decisions.
10 million metric tons of coal are proposed to be shipped out
You can’t export coal without importing pollution.
41% of domestic coal comes from the Powder River Basin, from deregulated mines
Deregulated mines don’t make economic sense – the coal is bought for $1/lb, sold for over $100/lb
Also, we offer subsidies to the coal industry in the form of rail line maintenance
Every coal port in the US has a dust problem

Q&A with Bob:
Q: What is the taxpayer cost for rail lines?
A: Towns being divided in half – rail crossing
Q: What will be the weight of coal train and how many engines will they have?
A: An empty train weighs 5,000 lbs. They will have 4-5 engines. The route passes over 150 waterways, making coal dust is a water quality issue. How much dust depends on how dry the coal is, wind, etc.
Q: Could jostling of cars at switching yard could create extra dust? Are there other local conditions or synergistic effects we need to think about (winds, etc.)?
Q: Since our water comes from the McKenzie (upstream), why is this a water quality issue?
A: Water quality for wildlife is a big concern. Someone is always downstream.
Q: What is the Kitzhaber proposal?
Oregon requires an Environmental Impact Statement on coal trains. Before allowing coal trains, the state of Washington also required a Health Assessment – a more in-depth look at how the trains will affect public health. That’s what Kitzhaber is calling for before allowing coal trains in Oregon.
Q: Who takes responsibility for coal train derailments?
A: The rail line does. The tight turn here is a concern. The loud squeaking you hear from the train tracks comes from strain of heavy trains on the tracks. I have never seen a coal train that was actually covered up.
The Cascadia Wildlands website will have more information

4. Voting
Should we take a position on the issue as a neighborhood? 15 vote Yes
Do we support Governor Kitzhaber’s letter to federal agencies? We vote to support the proposal in the letter and convey that support to the official agencies he addresses. 17 yes votes, 1 abstain. (John M. abstains because an EIS or Health Impact Statement doesn’t address all the issues with exporting energy.)
Do we support the Eugene City Council proposed resolution, which does not support coal train traffic? 14 vote to support the resolution, 1 abstain
Do we support the Port of Coos Bay alternative resolution, which supports coal trains? No motion to vote on the resolution
Jolene Siemsen moves to authorize the Board to draft a letter to the City Council along with our support of the resolutions we voted on. The letter should summarize concerns that were raised tonight – lack of economic benefit, impacts on public health, cost to taxpayers. Hillary seconds. 17 vote in favor. 1 abstains.

5. Report to general membership on Board activity – Carleen Reilly
E-votes: Kira is newest board member.
SCCO and RRCO approved resolution to form SCRRIPT composed of River Road and Santa Clara representatives to work on common goals in the SCROLL report. We are looking for implementation team members!
Approved minutes from prior meetings.

6. Executive (Board) Meeting
Jon will draft coal train letter to city council
Notes from July 9 meeting: approved
Notes from August 13: approved
October 8 meeting: SCROLL report scheduled
Storm Water plan – Jon will circulate
November – holiday party planning (potluck)