I applaud The Billings Gazette for its investigation into the increasing rail traffic through Billings, but I’m confused by BNSF’s contradictory statements. A March 19 front-page article says that the delay of wheat shipments is due to increasing oil traffic, construction to accommodate the increase of Bakken oil shipped through Montana and weather.
In contradiction, BNSF spokesperson Steve Forsberg is quoted as saying that oil and coal shipments are not affecting grain shipments.
Really? In a public event on March 6, BNSF regional director of Public Affairs, Matt Jones, explained that BNSF has seen a major increase in Bakken oil rail traffic. Bakken oil production is up almost 300 percent over the last three years. The amount being transported by rail is nearly 70 percent in 2013, up from 6 percent in 2010.
Let’s add this up. A massive increase in oil production and associated transportation by rail, $5 billion in rail construction to accommodate the increased traffic — and grain shipments, not oil or coal are sitting on side rails for weeks at a time.
This gives the appearance that BNSF is picking winners and losers. Montana’s grain growers have been the backbone of Montana’s economy and culture for generations. They deserve better service and honesty from BNSF.