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Coal train issue dies away

December 4, 2012
The Journal

Remember when the issue of the Dakota, Minnesota &?Eastern Railroad's plans to ship coal from Wyoming was the hot issue all across southern Minnesota?

Well, the issue has died away like the fading whistle of a far-off freight train. Canadian Pacific, which bought DM&E a few years back, has put the coal plans on "indefinite deferral," the company announced Monday.

DM&E had planned to extend its western lines into the Powder River Basin coal fields in Wyoming, and ship coal east over tracks it planned to improve. The railroad would have invested heavily in the repairs and renovation of its tracks, benefitting shippers along the line.

But the project ran into stiff resistance from environmentalists who opposed burning coal, and from communities that dreaded the idea of dozens of new coal trains speeding through. Rochester especially fought to have the rail line passing through town rerouted around the city. It was an issue that helped Mankato school teacher Tim Walz unseat Congressman Gil Gutknecht in the First District.

In the end, the rail project foundered in regulatory red tape until finally the lowering price of coal has made it economically unfeasible.

It may be just as well the project never got rolling. The change in the coal market would have made it a losing proposition.



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