The Sierra Club said Sept. 23 that more than 117,000 people have submitted public comments opposing the Tongue River Railroad project in southeastern Montana, citing a range of concerns from small-town economic impacts to global climate pollution.
The club said this comes after the recent, unanimous decision by the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council to oppose the railroad. The Missoula, Montana, City Council also voted 10-1-1 recently to oppose it, the club added.
The Tongue River Railroad project would connect Arch Coal‘s (NYSE: ACI) planned Otter Creek surface mine in the Montana end of the Powder River Basin to proposed export terminals in the Pacific Northwest, via an interconnect with the BNSF Railway. Like the mine and export facilities, the railroad has drawn scrutiny from communities across the country, who contributed the high volume of public comments in response to a draft environmental impact statement prepared by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board. The DEIS comment period closed Sept. 23.
“Contrary to what Arch Coal and BNSF want us to believe, the Tongue River Railroad is a threat to our businesses, property rights and cultural heritage in eastern Montana,” said Roger Sprague, whose ranch is in the path of the railroad.
Washington state residents joined Montanans in voicing disapproval, citing numerous potential impacts of rail movements of coal and the export terminals to the state’s rail-line and port communities stretching from Spokane to the Pacific Coast.
“Tens of thousands of people have spoken together with the same message: The Surface Transportation Board must study the Tongue River Railroad’s impacts to all potentially harmed communities from mine to rail and port to plant,” said Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart.
Project backer Arch Coal owns about one-third of the railroad, all of the proposed Otter Creek mine and about 38 percent of Millennium Bulk Terminals’ unpermitted export facility in Longview, Wash., the club note.