U.S. railroads hauled the highest number of carloads so far this year in the week that ended Saturday (Aug. 2), partly driven by low stockpiles at US utilities and pressure from producers to move more coal.

The Association of American Railroads said Thursday (Aug. 7) that weekly coal carloads originated on all U.S. railroads totaled 116,881, up 0.1 percent from the same week a year ago and 0.8 percent from the prior week. It was the highest number of carloads since 118,391 for the week that ended Sept. 14, 2013.

Read the complete article at Platts.


SMART Transportation Division Georgia State Legislative Director Matt Campbell testified before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency July 29 in Atlanta, addressing the concerns of the union and its members regarding the agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan.

In its proposed rule, the EPA is proposing state-specific rate-based goals for carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector, as well as guidelines for states to follow in developing plans to achieve the state-specific goals.

The rule seeks to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired power plants in the United States.

The EPA plan would reduce carbon emissions from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide and reduce particle pollution, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent.

Campbell noted that the transportation of coal by U.S. railroads is vitally important to the welfare of the members he represents.

“We are concerned and we care about this issue because of the impact this plan will have on our jobs and our future. There are 25 freight railroads in Georgia that employ thousands of people. These are not temporary jobs – they are careers. These people’s – my co-workers, your neighbors – precious careers are in jeopardy because of the hit being taken by the coal industry,” Campbell said.

Campbell noted that nearly 40 percent of all freight railroad cars in the U.S. are coal cars, accounting for 25 percent of the freight rail industry’s revenue and 20 percent of all freight rail jobs.

“Hauling coal is a big part of what our members do and it accounts for about 20 percent of all freight railroad jobs in America,” said SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich. “Our state directors are playing a vital role in trying to make this proposed rule workable.”

Alternate National Legislative Director John Risch noted that Pennsylvania State Legislative Director Paul Pokrowka and Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith would be also be testifying at EPA hearings in their home states this week.

Added Risch: “This proposed rule, coupled with EPA’s recently enacted mercury rule, will cause one-third of our nations coal-fired power plants to shut down in the next six years.”

“We are working with our allies in Washington on ways to make carbon capture and storage economically viable so coal remains a part of America’s energy mix for the foreseeable future,” National Legislative Director James Stem said.

Campbell went on to provide SMART Transportation Division’s suggestions for amending the proposed Clean Power Plan, including providing states with credit for prior carbon dioxide reductions and delaying implementation of the plan by several years to allow states and affected sources adequate time to prepare and submit state plans.

“We believe that the rule is premature since we do not know the extent to which other nations, particularly large developing countries, will be willing to commit to a truly global program of greenhouse gas reductions,” Campbell said. “We, America, cannot ‘go it alone’ and expect that our actions will have any meaningful climate impact in a world economy that is using more coal and other fossil fuels every day. Developing nations already emit more carbon dioxide than advanced industrial nations, and the Department of Energy projects that their share of global emissions will grow steadily, and will continue to do so, regardless of what the United States decides to do.

“Before I surrender the microphone, I want to make something clear. I love our environment and I am thankful for the clean air we breathe. That being said, I value my career on the railroad that allows me to provide for my family.

“As a middle class worker, speaking on behalf of other middle class workers, I plead with the EPA to listen to our recommendations and work to find a sensible, common sense solution that works for everyone.”


SMART Transportation Division Georgia State Legislative Director Matt Campbell, right, testifies at a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hearing July 29 in Atlanta regarding the agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan.

CSX_logoOMAHA, Neb. – CSX Corp. remains optimistic the railroad’s profits will improve over the next two years even though coal demand has remained stubbornly weak.

Officials at the Jacksonville, Fla.-based railroad said Wednesday that shipments of intermodal containers and merchandise will continue to be a larger part of their business.

Read the complete story at The Modesto Bee.

National and state labor unions are supporting a coal export project in Washington, calling it a chance for an economic boon to an area in financial distress.

State AFL-CIO leaders testified earlier this week in front of a committee of the King County Council that not only had the state chapter came out in support last year of the Gateway Pacific Terminal in Whatcom County, but also that the national AFL-CIO passed a resolution during its convention earlier this month in support of the project.

Read the complete story at Northwest

By James Stem, 
UTU National Legislative Director – 

Coal is America’s most abundant source of energy, helping reduce our nation’s dependence on imported oil.

Coal also means jobs, with almost one in every five freight rail jobs dependent on transporting coal. And coal means high-paying jobs for coal miners, power plant workers and the building trades, who build, maintain and update coal-fired generating plants.

Troubling is that coal – and this means American jobs — is under attack within the Environmental Protection Agency and from some in Congress who want to impose such stringent new emissions regulations that as many as one-third of our coal-fired power plants could be closed and no new ones built. That puts thousands of jobs on the line.

This debate will continue until the process is discovered to allow carbon-dioxide gases from coal to be captured and used productively.

Railroads, coal producers, the electric power industry, rail labor and other labor organizations agree there is a better way to improve air quality than regulations so stringent that coal production would plummet and large numbers of coal-related jobs would disappear.

The UTU’s National Legislative Office and state legislative directors are working with these allied interests to educate federal regulators and Congress on the issues, and explain the harm that could come to rail employment, the Railroad Retirement system and other segments of the American economy from stringent new regulations limiting carbon dioxide emissions from new coal-fired generating plants.

A coalition of unions, including the UTU, are members of Union Jobs and the Environment (, working to ensure coal remains an important part of America’s energy mix.

Environmental science is complex. Seldom do solutions proposed by environmental scientists weigh economic considerations, such as the impact on American jobs from limiting the use of coal by electric utilities.

Other environmental scientists propose a more balanced and flexible approach that would achieve comparable reductions in harmful emissions while protecting rail and other coal-related jobs. Our mission is to educate decisions makers and opinion leaders as to the costs of acting without considering economic impacts and alternatives that are equally effective in improving air quality.

We support a new approach by the Obama administration that has awarded federal research funds to nine universities to develop new clean coal technologies that will permit the continued use of American coal. We are disappointed that the amount of research dollars is not significantly greater.

Coal loadings are second only to trailers and containers in the number of carloads hauled by railroads. Some 45 percent of railroad tonnage is represented by coal, which does more than provide low-cost energy and American energy security.

Coal means high-paying jobs with benefits, and the UTU is working diligently with our partners to protect those jobs.