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Silence of the trains: EPA to shutter 200 coal-fired power plants

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A June 2012 report from the Institute for Energy Research states that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will close more than 200 coal-fired power plants around the nation that will be a loss of 34 gigawatts (GW) of electricity now generated by those plants. Natural gas fired-plants will replace the coal-fired facilities according to the institute.

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Around the Brainerd lakes area one might have noticed that fewer Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) coal trains have been rolling through town.

In last weekend’s Dispatch, reader Sarah Hayden commented: “It is a beautiful summer night in Brainerd, and I have the windows open while I peacefully slumber in the sweet breeze. BLAaaaaaaST. Now I, along with half of the city, have been jolted awake for the fourth time this night by a blaring train horn.“ Sarah’s comments were on the minds of thousands of residents living in close proximity to the BNSF line that has defined these communities for years. Sarah was advocating a “no horn zone” through the populated areas of Brainerd and Baxter when most folks are asleep.

People who’ve been annoyed with the blaring horn at 3 or 4 a.m. will not need a “no horn zone.” It seems as though the EPA’s actions that will be shuttering coal-fired plants will silence those trains rolling through our towns.

“Within the next three to five years, more than 200 coal-fired electric generating units will be shut down across 25 states due to EPA regulations and factors including cheap natural gas, according to a new report by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE).

Why? Perhaps it was this statement made by then Sen. Barack Obama that has followed through to his administration’s policy at the EPA: “So if somebody wants to build a coal-fired plant they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them....” That statement appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, in January 2008.

“This is further evidence that EPA is waging a war on coal, and a war on affordable electricity prices and jobs. EPA continues to ignore the damage that its new regulations are causing to the U.S. economy and to states that depend on coal for jobs and affordable electricity,” said Mike Duncan, president and CEO of ACCCE, in a statement.

Mr. Duncan might also add that it’s resulting in job losses in the coal fields of Wyoming and Montana. It is having an impact on the number of railroad jobs, not to mention the jobs that will be lost in the ports of Duluth and Superior, where the western coal is shipped to points east on the Great Lakes.

Loss of jobs on the BNSF are bound to increase. “Across the railroad this past year, coal volumes have been lower due to decreased demand resulting from low natural gas prices and milder weather,” said BNSF Spokeswoman Amy Mcbeth. “Particular areas of our network could see varying levels of traffic depending on customer needs and other factors.”

Sarah, if the recent silence along our rail line is an indicator of things to come, you and many others may choose to open your windows this summer and enjoy uninterrupted sleep.

Keith Hansen

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Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
(218) 855-5889
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