Individual comment detail

Margolis, Jeffrey
Date: Dec. 28, 2013
Dear Mr. Schroeder,

Attached you find an history of communication between me and Mr. Gus Melonas, a public affairs specialist with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. Our dialogue commenced around Thanksgiving 2013 owing to my concern about what seemed to be an extraordinarily long train traveling south from Sumas to Burlington on October 20th, 2013. All of my communications were copied to both Kent Catlin, Deputy Director of Whatcom County Emergency Services as well Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo. In fact Mr. Catlin contacted Mr. Melonas on my behalf, asking as I had, about the length and size of the 10/20/13 train. As a person doing business as Everybody's Store, close to the rail line, I am personally interested in this event. Furthermore as I Co-chair Safeguard the Southfork, an environmental organization, we have opined that it is imperative that the Burlington to Sumas route, what we call the Farmland Route, be considered an integral element of the Gateway Pacific Terminal and be evaluated for the manner in which it will be an impact of GPT on eastern Whatcom County.

Given the posture taken by the Co-Leads: ACOE, WADOE and Whatcom County it could appear that their points of view might exclude consideration of the Farmland Route in the course of doing the GPT EIS. Our quest for due diligence would be enhanced with BNSF's cooperation by revealing the nature, ie the length and number of cars of the 10/20/13 train. From the initial moments following the announcement of the GPT permitting process BNSF has always maintained an equivocal position that they could not say if the Farmland Route would be utilized. The SGSF opinion is that due to capacity challenges, utilization of the Farmland Route will either temporarily or eventually be entirely necessary. To wit, the Bellingham Herald on 12/23/13 headlined; "Oil, Coal trains squeeze Amtrak's Empire Builder route to Northwest."

My query to Mr. Melonas about the 10/20 train was aimed at removing doubt that the Farmland Route could be utilized. Although at one time Melonas said he would provide that information, after two months of equivocating I have to face the fact that BNSF has actually adopted a belligerent position and is refusing to be open and honest with me, SGSF and Whatcom County Emergency Services. BNSF's denial and withholding of pertinent information speaks to the importance of the information. I do hope that the Co-Leads will recognize that something vital is being kept from them which makes it all the more necessary for them to investigate the destiny of this rail route.

I hope BNSF will prove me wrong. A full response would go a long to building goodwill with communities along this corridor.

Yours very truly,
Jeff Margolis
Safeguard the Southfork

Dear Mr. Melonas,

Please pardon my slow response to your call, what with the crush of our in house Christmas business as well as our online cheese trade, it cuts into fulfilling my civic responsibilities. I hope you are looking forward to a joyous Christmas and a happy new year.

On the 17th, this week, I had a very enlightening meeting with Kent Catlin, Deputy Director of Emergency Services in Whatcom County. He related that you wrote, "beyond the basic question of train size some of their operations information is not released do to security reasons." Excellent. In the end, I do not think that we, and now I mean, myself and Mr. Catlin, are asking for anything more than the basic question, "What was the size of the October 20, 2013 train that traversed the Sumas to Burlington Route?" I understand that you get lots of calls and your time is short and you would prefer regard this query as spurious, but as I have written to you earlier, this is an evidentiary question which makes it slightly easier for the Co-Leads to draw a judgment about environmental impacts of the Gateway Pacific Terminal. All of which is of monumental consequence. Obviously, for my business purposes and the County, for its long range planning, and our members of Safeguard who live along the line, we too have a need to know.

Below you find a series of documents which lend themselves to the explanation for my supposition:

The letter from the City of Sedro-Woolley expresses its concern with BNSF impacts in the heart of town.

The Cascadia Cross Border Rail Improvement Study specifically addresses the advisability of enhanced use of the Burlington-Sumas route.

Too wit, you find the Final Report on the Washington Commerce Corridor (WCC) that was proposed in 2003. The WCC envisioned a Freight Mobility Corridor beginning in Whatcom County and running down to the Columbia River. This document provides costs and feasibility or shall we say, as did the Wilbur Smith Consulting firm, the unfeasibility at that time, as defined, of doing such.

Additional documents are those scoping comments submitted by Safeguard the Southfork and a separate one by me, owner of property and a business that I estimate would be affected by the development of GPT.

All of these documents lend themselves to the argument that BNSF will employ its entire rail system in Whatcom County as it must in order to securely service GPT. Can BNSF say it will not use that which is patently usable? Either temporarily or permanently it must be anticipated that coal trains will travel this route with a connection thru lower mainland British Columbia to GPT. Unless of course it would make a contractual agreement to never use the Sumas to Burlington Route for unit trains? To this I would assume you would declare, "that's absurd!" No?

I trust you are aware of a division of opinion amongst the Co-Leads as to what and which environmental impacts are more or less significant. Quite obviously Whatcom County has to plan for transportation impacts in Ferndale.
Washington State Department of Ecology is interested in transportation impacts in various sectors of the state. The Army Corp prefers to restrict its focus to the Cherry Point site.

Parenthetically the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, through its scoping comments has signified a general concern with GPT impacts as has the City of Sedro-Woolley, and of course Whatcom County Emergency Services, a division of the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office has asked you directly on my behalf, "What was the size of the Oct. 20th train?

Owing to the dimensions of state and federal law, none of the agencies mentioned above seem to be in the position to compel an answer from BNSF. You and I have been in communication with each other for over a month over this very simple question pertaining to the size of the Oct. 20th train. In fact you said to me that you would provide the answer and need I reiterate your quote, "....beyond the basic question of train size....". In a recent letter to you I wrote, " Those of us who are concerned need to be assured that we are not being stonewalled or that BNSF is not assuming a belligerent posture toward the public. We expect that BNSF would not want to distort events and facts that can support the Co-Lead agencies charged with wisely assessing the environmental impacts of the Gateway Pacific Terminal."

The moment is at hand to display that BNSF is a good neighbor, a good corporate citizen. I know it is the Christmas season, but please, procrastination is not the type of toy we deserve. My wish for the season is to receive a simple gift; your notification to of us of the size of the 10/20 train. As a publicist you can appreciate what cheer this will bring to those who eagerly await BNSF's commitment to our community.

Yours for a prosperous New Year,
Jeff Margolis
Co Chair
Safeguard the Southfork

Please contact me in a fashion which will allow me to attach pertinent files.