Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

Three northern Idaho counties are creating strategies for containing an oil spill as more oil is moving through the inland Northwest on trains.

Trains carry crude oil from North Dakota across the Idaho Panhandle at least twice a day. They run along lakes and rivers, and sometimes cross right over the water.

That’s made local emergency response managers in Boundary, Bonner and Kootenai counties even more nervous about what would happen if a train derailed.

side.tracked / Flickr Creative Commons

Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad wants to build a second bridge in northern Idaho to handle an expected increase in traffic that includes coal and oil trains.

Railway spokesman Gus Melonas tells The Spokesman-Review in a story on Wednesday that the one bridge at Sandpoint restricts train traffic.

The railway wants to build another bridge about 50 feet west of the existing bridge that crosses Lake Pend Oreille where it meets the Pend Oreille River.

transportation, river, train derailment
Kagan Yochim @TripwithKagan / Twitter

A Montana Rail Link spokeswoman says it took about 12 hours to remove the first of three commercial airplane bodies that fell into the Clark Fork River after a train derailed.

Spokeswoman Lynda Frost said Monday that specialized machines are pulling the 20-ton fuselages attached to 50-ton flatbed cars from the embankment one at a time at a rate of 20 feet per hour.

Frost says the most difficult fuselage to retrieve was removed safely Sunday. Crews are working on the second fuselage Monday and plan to remove the third by Tuesday.

The worst train in America is right here in the Northwest: the famed Empire Builder.

Roy Luck / Flickr Creative Commons

The biggest railroad in the Northwest forcefully defended the safety of oil trains Wednesday.

It happened at a meeting in Seattle of environmental regulators from the West Coast. The context is the rapid rise in crude oil trains coming to the Northwest from North Dakota and this summer's deadly explosion in Quebec.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe hazmat expert Patrick Brady calls that train accident "an anomaly."

Courtney Flatt / Earthfix

A coalition of tribal leaders and politicians gathered in Seattle Monday to announce the formation of a new group that opposes coal exports in the Northwest.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and State Representative Reuven Carlyle were among a group of Washington politicians and tribal leaders who announced the creation of the Leadership Alliance Against Coal. The group says it will work to “raise awareness about the damaging economic, cultural and health impacts of coal trains and coal exports”.


For the last year EarthFix has been looking at the issue of coal being exported through the Northwest.

There are five proposed coal export terminals under consideration in Washington and Oregon. They would be built to transfer coal off of trains from Wyoming and Montana mines and on to ships bound for Asia.

Some coal dust will escape along the journey from the mines to the terminals.

The Black Thunder mine  located near Gillette, Wyoming is one of the largest open pit mines in the world.

Michael Werner / EarthFix

More than 2,000 people showed up Thursday to tell regulators what they think should be considered in the environmental review of a proposed coal export terminal near Bellingham, Wash. If built, it could be the largest such facility on the West Coast.

Coal Train Traffic Increase Could Be Bad News For Health

Mar 29, 2012
Courtney Flatt

There are now six new export terminals proposed to be built along the Northwest coast. The goal? To bring American coal to Asia, via train and ship.

If these terminals are approved that could mean more than 100 million tons of coal traveling by rail across Idaho, Washington and Oregon every year.

The potential for more train traffic has public health experts concerned.