Stop the Coal Train Strain FAQs

What is Stop the Coal Train Strain?

“Stop the Coal Train Strain: Rise Up for Rail Line Justice” is a peaceful community action in Missoula, to highlight how towns up and down Montana’s rail lines are impacted by dirty coal train traffic.  If companies like Arch Coal get their way, communities like Missoula will see up to thirty more coal train pass through each day, bringing coal from Eastern Montana to proposed export terminals on the West Coast.  Diesel fumes, coal dust, noise, and public safety threats from coal trains will disproportionately affect the people living closest to the railroad.  On Saturday, Feb 22nd, we’ll come together to Stop the Coal Train Strain and protect our communities from pollution.

Why is this event happening now?

Coal companies’ plans for increased exports depend on key new pieces of infrastructure being built.  State and federal decision makers are now reviewing two of these projects in Montana: Arch Coal’s proposed Otter Creek Mine, and the Tongue River Railroad (which would transport coal from Otter Creek to existing rail lines).  As these decisions move forward, it’s critical that officials hear loudly and clearly from communities along the export route.  At Stop the Coal Train Strain, we hope to send a message that decision makers can’t ignore.

Why is the action in Missoula?

Increased coal train traffic affects communities from Billings to the West Coast.  But Missoula will suffer some of the most severe impacts, because of a rail yard and train fueling station in the middle of town.  Idling train, heavy industrial activity, and routine cleaning operations that stir up coal dust and other toxic matter, affect largely working class neighborhoods located mere blocks from the rail yard.  Some homes are situated literally across the street from this center of pollution, putting their owners at disproportionate risk.  This is an existing environmental justice issue that needs to be addressed, and it will only get worse if more coal trains come through town.  To highlight these impacts, while drawing attention to problems affecting all rail line communities, we decided to hold this action in Missoula.

Who is organizing this event?

Stop the Coal Train Strain is being coordinated by Blue Skies Campaign, a grassroots organization based in Missoula.  Event co-sponsors include the Northern Plains Resource Council; Montana Environmental Information Center; Montana Chapter of the Sierra Club; Indian People’s Action; UM Climate Action Now; Community Action for Justice in the Americas, Africa, and Asia; 350-Missoula; and Missoula Community Food Co-Op.

What exactly will happen at Stop the Coal Train Strain?

The event will start at 2pm with a rally outside the Missoula County Courthouse.  At the rally we’ll hear from inspiring speakers, then leave for a march that ends at the Madison Street/Duncan Drive crossing.  There, where the railroad intersects a heavily-used city street, we’ll hold a creative action designed to draw attention to the impacts of increased coal train traffic.  

Will there be civil disobedience at this event?

Blue Skies Campaign, one of the groups involved in Stop the Coal Train Strain, has organized multiple acts of nonviolent civil disobedience in the past, to highlight the moral urgency of stopping coal exports.  That kind of action is an important part of what Blue Skies does, and we’ll do it again–but not at Stop the Coal Train Strain.  What we really need at this specific action are numbers: we need as many people as possible to show up, so we can send a strong message to decision makers that we refuse to let our communities be sacrificed.  To accomplish this, and ensure an event that people and groups from all walks of life feel comfortable joining, we won’t be holding a civil disobedience at this particular event.

Should I bring anything?

If you have your own sign or can make one, please bring it (we’ll also have lots of extra signs).  And remember to dress warm, as it’s likely to be cold outside.  Other than that, try to bring a friend or family member if you can!

I’m not from Missoula. Can I still come to the action?

Yes!  Though we anticipate most action participants will be from Missoula, residents of other rail communities, and all others who think we should be using less coal and more clean energy, are welcome to join us at Stop the Coal Train Strain.  If you’re coming from far away and need somewhere to spend the night, we may be able to help you find a place.  If you’d like help finding somewhere to stay, let us know when you fill out the event RSVP form.

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