Warren Buffett warned of BNSF coal train blockade by B.C. activists

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      A group of B.C. climate-change activists says it plans to stop BNSF Railway Company trains loaded with U.S. coal from passing through White Rock for one day.

      British Columbians for Climate Action has written a letter to U.S. business magnate Warren Buffett, whose company Berkshire Hathaway owns BNSF, announcing that activists are prepared to block loaded coal trains from reaching B.C. ports for 24 hours on Saturday (May 5).

      Here's the group's letter:

      Dear Mr. Buffett;

      We want to inform you that on Saturday, May 5th, from midnight to midnight, we intend to prevent BNSF coal trains from passing through White Rock, British Columbia to deliver their coal to our coastal ports for export to Asia. We have chosen May 5th to take this step because it has been designated an International Day of Action by 350.org, with the theme “Connecting the Dots.” We can't think of a more important connection to emphasize than the one between burning coal and putting our collective future at risk.

      Who we are and why we are prepared to engage in civil disobedience to stop your coal trains:

      We are a group of citizens in British Columbia, Canada who are deeply concerned about the risk of runaway climate change. There is a broad scientific consensus that we must begin to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions this decade to avoid climate change becoming irreversible. At the same time, governments and industry are eager to increase the production and export of fossil fuels, the very things that will ensure climate change does get worse.

      These two things are irreconcilable, and since we can't dispute the scientific findings or change the laws of nature, those of us who care about the future must do what we can to reduce the production, export and burning of fossil fuels – especially coal.

      Since we know what is at stake we feel a moral obligation to do what we can to help prevent this looming disaster. On Saturday May 5th that means stopping your coal trains from reaching our ports.

      Our actions will be peaceful, non-violent, and respectful of others. There will be no property destruction. We are striving to be the best citizens we can. We will stand up for what we believe is right and conduct ourselves with dignity.

      Why we are involving you:

      We know that you have canceled plans to have your utilities build coal fired power plants. Like us, we are sure you know that coal is the dirtiest of fossil fuels; when burned it produces the most global warming pollution per unit of energy. We assume you are familiar with the growing number of scientists – including NASA's Dr James Hansen, and IPCC member Dr Andrew Weaver – who warn us that if we burn the world's accessible coal reserves we will destroy the benign and hospitable climate that has allowed human civilization to flourish.

      What we can't understand is why you allow your railway, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, to continue shipping vast amounts of US coal out of Canadian ports to be burned in Asia. No matter where this coal is burned, it brings us closer to a climatic point of no return.

      Mr Buffett, you have spoken eloquently about the need for shared sacrifice. But with all respect sir, when it comes to climate change it appears that other people are doing all the suffering while you profit from the very causes of the problem. That's not fair, and we urge you to apply the same moral reasoning to the climate crisis as you have to the problem of economic inequality in your country.

      You are in many ways an important figure of conscience in the world. We appeal to you to seize this opportunity and make a bold decision on coal. With your support we can ensure a healthy future for our children and people around the world.

      We acknowledge that this action is taking place on unceded Coast Salish territory.


      British Columbians for Climate Action


      Chief Willard Cook, Semiahmoo First Nation
      Andrew Weaver, University of Victoria
      James Hansen, Columbia University
      Bill McKibben, 350.org

      Specific details on our intention to stop your coal trains on May 5th:

      For 24 hrs on May 5th we are prepared to stop all loaded coal trains traveling west/north that approach mile 122 (White Rock pier) on the New Westminster Subdivision, Northwest Division, of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. From dawn to dusk on May 5th we will also stop all unloaded coal trains traveling east/south approaching mile 122.

      We will not interfere with other freight trains using this line on May 5th, nor will we interfere with the movement of Amtrak Trains using the New Westminster Subdivision on that day:

      • Cascades # 513, passing mile 122 at approximately 7:40 a.m. en route to Bellingham;

      • Cascades # 510, passing mile 122 at approximately 10:30 a.m. en route to Vancouver;

      • Cascades # 517, passing mile 122 at approximately 6:45 p.m. en route to Bellingham; and

      • Cascades # 516, passing mile 122 at approximately 9:50 p.m. en route to Vancouver.

      We will step off the tracks well in advance of the arrival of Amtrak service. Our spotters to the south and north will give us notice of the approach of any freight traffic, and we will step away for these trains as well. A 21 MPH speed restriction is in place for some distance both sides of mile 122 of the New Westminster Subdivision, which is the site of a well used foot crossing that is safe and familiar to both pedestrians and train crews. We are confident that we can safely remove ourselves from the tracks to allow the passage of Amtrak service and freight trains.

      Our spotters in the USA and Canada will provide us with notice well in advance if coal trains are moving anywhere on the New Westminster Subdivision on May 5th. We ask you to stand down all coal traffic on this day in order to avoid a confrontation at mile 122 and potential disruption of passenger rail service.

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      May 1, 2012 at 6:00pm

      They'll probably drive their cars down to White Rock.

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      p lg

      May 1, 2012 at 10:46pm

      A majority of BC residents oppose both the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipeline proposals to transport tar sands crude across BC to ports in Vancouver and Kitimat.

      I wonder how much coal is now being transported by rail across BC to ports in Vancouver, Tsawwassen and Prince Rupert for shipment to overseas markets?

      Is the latent CO2 emissions in the coal being shipped out of BC ports less or greater that the latent CO2 emissions from the tar sands crude proposed to be shipped through BC ports for Asian and overseas markets?


      May 2, 2012 at 9:00am

      There's a non-story!

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      Impotent Rage

      May 2, 2012 at 10:28am

      Dear British Columbians for Climate Action,
      This will delay a few thousand bucks profit by one day for a guy worth billions - I bet he is shitting his depends...
      Sincerely, Reality

      Mike C

      May 2, 2012 at 1:47pm

      The tracks by White Rock Pier are not unceded Coast Salish territory. Trespassers will likely be swiftly removed.

      Evil Eye

      May 2, 2012 at 2:36pm

      Do the coal trains run on Saturday?

      Really, if protesters stop coal trains in Whiterock, the AMTRAK passengers services will be suspended as there are no passing tracks at that location.


      May 3, 2012 at 9:58pm

      I'm pretty sure if you are on railroad property, you are trespassing. Thus subject to fines/arrest. Hmmm...

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      May 4, 2012 at 10:43pm

      You have a choice:
      A. Coal $ now
      B. a more messed up planet for your kids?
      Which do you choose?