“Spitting in the face of the physical laws of the universe is a fool’s game. Mother Nature does not do bailouts, nor does she forgive stupidity.”
Jules Gindraux, a longtime aquifer advocate, had a wonderful letter to the Coeur d’Alene Press recently regarding the BNSF refueling depot. The BNSF facility goes before a Kootenai County hearing examiner this evening for renewal of their conditional permit for operations.
Jules points out the sad inevitability of the disaster waiting to happen as the BNSF facility refuels dozens of trains with thousands of gallons of fuel directly above the sole source of drinking water for more than a half million people. It is not really a matter of whether such a facility will fail, it is only a matter of when. As Jules puts it, “Every day that passes brings us closer to the ‘mean-time-to-failure.’” Of course, this facility has already failed once.
Unfortunately, BNSF has an approval from the county that should never have been given. Now, in an effort to make a bad situation less bad, and a potential disaster perhaps less catastrophic, the county has been trying to build into the permit renewal new aquifer protection conditions, spill prevention mechanisms and better accountability. However, BNSF, by running to the courthouse and filing a lawsuit, has been successful so far in limiting any significant impact to its operations or bottom line. For example, BNSF continues to refuse a condition on the facility that would require the facility to be shut down automatically in the case of a leak. Instead, BNSF says they will wait for Idaho DEQ or some other government agency to order them shut down.
Unfortunately, the threat is likely to be much worse than anyone may have ever imagined during the original approvals. An enormous amount of coal from the Powder River basin in Wyoming and Montana is being proposed for export to India and China via controversial port facilities in western Washington. All of that coal will travel by train through our region. This is likely to double rail traffic with exceedingly long and exceedingly heavy trains.
The probabilities for disaster, however remote on any given day, are doubling. And the odds are worsening with every rumbling train over the thin protective liners that separate the aquifer from BNSF’s supply of diesel fuel.
As Jules explains colorfully:
When the disaster occurs, we will hear the universal excuse: We Never Saw It Coming. A subsequent investigation will show that Mistakes Were Made. But of course the guilty parties will not be held accountable. The universal mea culpa will state It’s a Wakeup Call, and as that phrase dies on the wind, our politicians and the money powers will return to kissing Aaron’s Golden Calf on the arse.