Pacific Northwest: green to black gold?

Region’s green identity challenged by increasing number of trains carrying oil and coal

Energy-industry plans to move larger and larger amounts of coal and oil through the ecologically conscious Pacific Northwest by train for shipment to fuel-hungry Asian markets are causing the region an identity crisis of sorts.

Beginning in September of last year, the first trains carrying crude oil from North Dakota drove through the Spokane area, and mile-long trains carrying coal from Wyoming now travel through the area on a daily basis, according to a recent article in The New York Times.

To make matters worse, coal loads shipped by train through what’s known as the Spokane Funnel could more than double if proposed regional export terminals are approved.

Among the issues that rankle the area’s environmentalists, including the Sierra Club, is the routine spilling of large amounts of coal and coal dust from trains into waterways.