Kansas City is a vital part of our nation’s transportation network due to its strategic location, which is among the reasons why, in 1875, BNSF Railway’s predecessors built a rail yard in Argentine. Since then, BNSF has been a proud part of the Argentine and Turner communities where generations of railroaders and their families have thrived.
That’s why BNSF was disappointed by a Kansas City Star editorial (July 1) that relied on a biased, non-scientific study to suggest rail operations in Argentine might pose health threats to the community. BNSF has voluntarily worked closely with EPA and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) to reduce emissions and continue to ensure the air around the yard is safe to breathe. Also, an air monitor recently placed in Argentine by KDHE and EPA indicates that air quality in Turner and Argentine is good.
BNSF has partnered with environmental agencies on air studies and made significant investments in clean technologies to reduce emissions at Argentine. BNSF worked with KDHE to create a 2010 regional railroad emissions inventory and is collaborating with KDHE and EPA to update the inventory. Since 2010, BNSF’s local investments in cleaner technology include the installation of idle-control technology on locomotives and solar-powered track switches; the elimination of five diesel-powered cranes and a refueling station; and relocation of intermodal operations and associated truck traffic from Argentine to a new state-of-the-art intermodal yard in Gardner. BNSF also partnered with the state of Kansas to repower with cleaner technology three locomotives dedicated to the Argentine Yard. We are confident an updated emissions inventory will demonstrate a significant reduction in emissions at the yard.
A group, mostly individuals and organizations from outside the community, recently conducted an air-quality monitoring study. The study monitors a type of emissions not used by EPA to monitor air quality, and it uses biased data. Regional weather monitoring stations data indicate prevailing winds are from the south to the north away from residential areas 11 months of the year, but the study only reported data for the narrow period of time when winds are from the north to the south. EPA uses particulate matter to measure air quality, but instead the study measured elemental carbon, for which EPA has no standards. There is an occupational emission guideline for elemental carbon available from a leading non-profit scientific association, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists. The average concentration of elemental carbon measured in the study is less than one twentieth of that exposure guideline, and the highest concentration is less than one tenth of the guideline.
Railroads are recognized as part of the solution to reducing carbon emissions. Trains can move one ton of freight almost 500 miles on one gallon of fuel, which is three times more efficient than trucks, and trains reduce carbon emissions by over two-thirds compared with trucks on a ton-mile basis. That means rail, which carries more than 40 percent of our nation’s freight by volume, only accounts for 2.3 percent of all transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, according to the EPA.
BNSF’s roots run deep in KC and railroaders have helped create unique neighborhoods that reflect the diversity of its workers. They’ve sent their children to local schools, served on community boards, shopped in local stores and have called those neighborhoods home. We live here, work here and care about the quality of life and the environment in the communities we serve. Argentine and Turner are no exceptions.
John Lovenburg is vice president-environmental at BNSF Railway.