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Posted: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 10:00 am

SANDPOINT — Bonner County may just find themselves on the big screens of the film festival circuit following the recent filming of documentary footage in town.

A recent panel discussing the controversies of proposed coal train exports was captured by San Francisco film crew Plus M Productions. The footage will be used in upcoming documentary “Momenta,” anticipated to premiere in February 2014.

Throughout the evening, Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper executive director Shannon Williamson, film director Andy Miller, professional snowboarder and Sandpoint native Nate Holland, Spokane Riverkeeper executive director Bart Mihailovich, Sandpoint City Councilman Aaron Qualls and environmental advocate Gary Payton detailed what they viewed as a dangerous proposal to expand coal shipments.

According to their data, the Asia-bound cargo shipments would result in more than 100 million tons of coal passing through Sandpoint in uncovered train cars annually.

Miller said he was inspired to make the documentary upon hearing concerns from communities in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington regarding the proposed coal shipments. Unlike high profile environmental controversies like the Keystone Pipeline, however, he felt these coal shipments weren’t receiving sufficient national attention.

“We think this is a huge issue for our country, and we wanted to do something about it,” he said.

Miller and the rest of the panel had several concerns regarding the coal shipments. First, the energy production from the coal would only benefit China and other Asian importers, but the resulting carbon emissions would impact everyone, panel members said. According to Williamson’s data, emissions would be the equivalent of 25 million vehicles annually.

Of more immediate concern to Pacific Northwest communities are the 60,000 pounds of coal dust lost over the course of a coal shipment. Williamson said these dust particles had adverse health, air and water quality effects. In addition, the potential for train derailment prompted even more concern for the air and waterways of the Northwest.

These concerns are reflected in “Momenta” by environmental advocates, academics and community members throughout the Pacific Northwest. A project made possible through Kickstarter funding, the filmmakers have traveled through several states collecting footage and interviews for the documentary. After its premiere, “Momenta” will likely be entered into festivals all around the country, Miller said. He hopes the tour will bring increased national attention to the controversial proposals.

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  • SdptMom posted at 9:16 am on Wed, Sep 11, 2013.

    SdptMom Posts: 170

    I agree, reddawn, the health of our environment for our children + generations to come is not good. Sadly, money often means more to many in the older generation than we think it should. My Dad once told me its because of the depression in the 20's.

  • reddawn posted at 10:08 am on Mon, Sep 9, 2013.

    reddawn Posts: 1709

    I am looking forward to this documentary. I just hope it is not to late to stop these trains from going threw town when everyone sees what damage is done. The biggest complaint folks have is the amount of trains that come threw town, and add once again another 40 and more a day. It seems that the old folks on here could care less, they have lived in a time when life was so full of abuse of water, land, chemical industrial age. The future does need to protect this planet for those who are still being born, yet I find it sad when so many old folks choose to live in the past.

  • KJB posted at 8:12 am on Fri, Sep 6, 2013.

    KJB Posts: 525


    Wondering why coal in the lake is somehow worse than tankers of chemicals, cars, and other materials that are transported on trains. Why the worry/hatred of coal? Coal comes out of the ground. It is not produced in a factory. It is a natural product of the would be like dumping dirt into the lake. A trainload of that would be an environmental mess. Where is the concern for those trainloads?

    Yet, all the focus is on coal. Ridiculous.

    Bring on the trains. Coal and oil production--energy--are one of the few bright spots in an otherwise lackluster economy right now. Look at North Dakota. I think their unemployment rate is 3 or 4%! And yet the enviros demonize what they are doing.

    Coal is mined by hard working miners in WV, PA and other blue collar towns. Why would you want to put these middle class people out of business for selling a product to customers?

    Leave the trains and the coal industry alone. If we don't supply the coal someone else will. Why keep $$ and jobs away from hurting Americans?

  • SdptMom posted at 11:42 pm on Thu, Sep 5, 2013.

    SdptMom Posts: 170

    FAT CHANCE extracting any flesh from the RR!!! They're exempt from a whole bunch of what we'd expect would be THEIR business expences .. thanks to the Rockefeller era. And another fact is, derailments do happen. Yesterday a trail derailed + dumped cars into the Clark Fork River near Superior, MT. Fortunately they were not loaded with coal, but it drives home the point of the RISK involved with increased coal shipments. Its not fear, IDgal, its awareness of the reality of FACTS. Time to sharpen'up you'all [wink]

  • leechstomper posted at 7:29 am on Thu, Sep 5, 2013.

    leechstomper Posts: 1455

    Mom: you are approaching the problem from the wrong angle. This is an excellent opportunity to extract a pound of flesh from the railroad. Have THEM fund an overpass on Boyer in exchange for withdrawing community opposition.

  • leechstomper posted at 7:24 am on Thu, Sep 5, 2013.

    leechstomper Posts: 1455


  • IdahoGal posted at 4:17 pm on Wed, Sep 4, 2013.

    IdahoGal Posts: 76

    It isn't healthy to live in fear, SdptMom. [sad]

  • SdptMom posted at 11:52 am on Wed, Sep 4, 2013.

    SdptMom Posts: 170

    Are any of you considering the cost to our community (your tax $) to build an underpass on Boyer so as not to have long delays for emergency services??? Is anyone concerned about the risk of a derailment in town or on the Lake????? [sad]

  • leechstomper posted at 8:28 am on Wed, Sep 4, 2013.

    leechstomper Posts: 1455

    The posting by SdptMom is another example of half informed people that get to vote. I have been to presentations by Shannon Williamson. She is a nice lady but focused only on stopping her perceived threats to the lake and has not one alternative solution that affects the real world. When asked about the naturally occuring arsenic in the groundwater found in the Kootenai/ Odin Bay area that far exceeds federal drinking water standards leaching into the lake, she stated: "Um, we're currently not studying that". When asked about the alternatives that the Chinese have to replace our relatively clean coal for power production - far dirtier Russian coal which the Russians are busily building a railroad to supply or nuclear generation plants built using the Chinese' renowned quality control measures (both ignored by Downwinders' protestations over our coal), we received a deer-in-the-headlights look accompanied by the sound of crickets chirping. When asked about the coal's ability to reduce our trade deficit with the Chinese and supply American jobs - silence.
    As to Mom's concerns over minute amounts of radioactive particles blowing into the lake, she has blithely passed over the fact that we live in an area where radon perculates up through our basements and water supplies on a substantial basis.
    As far as I'm concerned, these people are nothing but a bunch of Don Quixotes with all grievances and no viable solutions.

  • ToSay posted at 7:47 am on Wed, Sep 4, 2013.

    ToSay Posts: 14

    So coal trains have coming through town for about 30 to 40 years, where is the build up of the goal dust??? I lived at the Seaons Condos for about 7 months, one of our cars was parked outside, there was NO coal dust at all. These people have made up their own stats! SpdtMom you have been had, if not show me the dust! It should be about 4-6 inches deep by now!

  • SdptMom posted at 10:29 pm on Tue, Sep 3, 2013.

    SdptMom Posts: 170

    Did any of you attend this meeting? I did + learned: There would be an additional 40 trains a day coming thru Sdpt. IF the terminals are built. That's 20 full of coal + 20 empty diesel trains with 100 cars on each. The length of the trains is 1.5 miles long. It will seriously impact all our emergency services .. not to mention timely travel for residents. So if you don't care that coal dust with lead, arsenic, mercury + some radioactive elements blows into our beautiful Lake on a very regular basis .. or that people with respitory problems will suffer from the additional diesel exhaust (3-4 diesel engines per train x 40 = 120 to 160 per DAY), maybe your own self-centered convenience will get you crank'up to oppose. Nothing comical about this!!![sad]

  • wilson posted at 9:00 pm on Tue, Sep 3, 2013.

    wilson Posts: 1071

    I did not see anywhere in the article that declared the documentary would be fair and balanced. Will it be biased? Pro's and Con's? Idaho Gal has it right - I hope the City doesn't spend a dime promoting this - if so, watch out for the backlash --

    Miller did not hear concerns from communities - he found a way to capitalize on the outspoken and ignorant few from some areas ( aren't there always a few malcontents?)

  • ski2work posted at 8:59 pm on Tue, Sep 3, 2013.

    ski2work Posts: 622

    Unlike the early years, coal is scrubbed of dust before it is put on the trains. This hysteria about coal is almost comical.

  • Scott S posted at 7:01 pm on Tue, Sep 3, 2013.

    Scott S Posts: 387

    Not to worry, Booby Wynny, Harvey Pine, etc etc etc knows what is best for us. Obama Care by itself will ensure that we are all taken care of. Oh, at a price though, right I just read that property taxes are increasing in Bonner County and part of that is because of a 38 percent increase in health insurance costs. With Obummer care though, it will take care of us and the coal dust so I feel safe. HAHA. I think I will go crawl around the railroad tracks and then sue BN for coal dust exposure as I dont recall a sticker being on the tracks telling me it might be the wrong thing to do. If someone can sue McDonalds for hot coffee then it should be a no brainer.

  • Perki posted at 11:15 am on Tue, Sep 3, 2013.

    Perki Posts: 604

    We would not have to worry about this if we could just build Power Plants near the coal and burn it ourselves.

  • IdahoGal posted at 10:59 am on Tue, Sep 3, 2013.

    IdahoGal Posts: 76

    I hope these people are clearly stating that they speak only for themselves and a vocal MINORITY in our community! But.... probably not..... Really - 60,000 POUNDS of coal dust on every shipment!!!!!! Are they also selling swamp land and bridges..... Good grief! Read Richard Creed's letter if you want some facts.