As the second largest coal producer in the world, the United States provides the world with massive amounts of this natural resource. In fact, coal serves as fuel for over 30 percent of global primary energy needs and generates 42 percent of the world’s electricity. Coal produced in American mines is shipped all over the world and represents a major source of rail traffic in the U.S. While the coal transport creates railroad jobs, opponents raise nagging concerns about the industry’s safety record and environmental impact.
In response to coal transport’s rapid growth, Washington State has ordered a comprehensive environmental study on the export of millions of tons of coal through a terminal north of Seattle. The study will commence at the behest of environmental groups and elected officials and will be performed by the state. The study’s outcome is expected to play a key role in the debate over whether to proceed with a plan to use Washington as a major export point for coal destined for Asia.
Those opposed to increased coal rail traffic raise seemingly valid concerns, which include:
Another risk involved is coal train derailments, which spill thousands of tons of coal, causing injuries and serious damage to the environment. Coal spills also require significant financial investment to clean up.
In certain states, plans for increased coal traffic have been scuttled despite the revenue that would accompany tens of thousands of additional coal trains. When such an announcement was made in Minnesota, many lauded the end of a lengthy debate regarding heavy coal train traffic that would have passed by the Mayo Clinic on a daily basis.
Coal train accidents can and do occur, leaving railroad workers and bystanders injured in their wake. In such circumstances, a qualified railroad accident attorney should advise victims on their rights against those responsible for their pain and suffering.