Hansen to block Buffet's coal export trains

He says he’ll get out of the way, though, when the trains approach. Sigh…

Below is James Hansen’s letter to Warren Buffet warning of the protest.


Sent By Mail:
Warren Buffett Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
3555 Farnam Street Suite 1440 Omaha, NE USA 68131

Dear Mr. Buffett:

We want to inform you that on Saturday, May 5th, from midnight to midnight, we intend to prevent BNSF coal trains from passing through White Rock, British Columbia to deliver their coal to our coastal ports for export to Asia. We have chosen May 5th to take this action because it has been designated an International day of action by 350.org, with the theme “Connecting the Dots.” We can’t think of a more important connection to emphasize than the one between burning coal and putting our collective future at risk.

Who we are and why we are prepared to engage in civil disobedience to stop your coal trains:

We are a group of citizens in British Columbia, Canada who are deeply concerned about the risk of runaway climate change. There is a broad scientific consensus that we must begin to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions this decade to avoid climate change becoming irreversible. At the same time, governments and industry are eager to increase the production and export of fossil fuels, the very things that will ensure climate change does get worse.

These two things are irreconcilable, and since we can’t dispute the scientific findings or change the laws of nature, those of us who care about the future must do what we can to reduce the production, export and burning of fossil fuels – especially coal.

Since we know what is at stake we feel a moral obligation to do what we can to help prevent this looming disaster. On Saturday May 5th that means stopping your coal trains from reaching our ports.
Our actions will be peaceful, non-violent, and respectful of others. There will be no property destruction. We are striving to be the best citizens we can. We will stand up for what we believe is right and conduct ourselves with dignity.

Why we are involving you:

We know that you have canceled plans to have your utilities build coal fired power plants. Like us, we are sure you know that coal is the dirtiest of fossil fuels; when burned it produces the most global warming pollution per unit of energy. We assume you are familiar with the growing number of scientists – including NASA’s Dr James Hansen, and IPCC member Dr Andrew Weaver – who warn us that if we burn the world’s accessible coal reserves we will destroy the benign and hospitable climate that has allowed human civilization to flourish.

What we can’t understand is why you allow your railway, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, to continue shipping vast amounts of US coal out of Canadian ports to be burned in Asia. No matter where this coal is burned, it brings us closer to a climatic point of no return.

Mr Buffett, you have spoken eloquently about the need for shared sacrifice. But with all respect sir, when it comes to climate change it appears that other people are doing all the suffering while you profit from the very causes of the problem. That’s not fair, and we urge you to apply the same moral reasoning to the climate crisis as you have to the problem of economic inequality in your country.

You are in many ways an important figure of conscience in the world. We appeal to you to seize this opportunity and make a bold decision on coal. With your support we can ensure a healthy future for our children and people around the world.

We acknowledge that this action is taking place on unceded Coast Salish territory.


British Columbians for Climate Action
@stopcoalBC cc:
Chief Willard Cook, Semiahmoo First Nation (sent by fax) Andrew Weaver, University of Victoria James Hansen, Columbia University Bill McKibben, 350.org

Specific details on our intention to stop your coal trains on May 5th:

For24hrsonMay5th wearepreparedtostopallloadedcoaltrainstravelingwest/north that approach mile 122 (White Rock pier) on the New Westminster Subdivision, Northwest Division, of the Burlington

Northern Santa Fe Railway. From dawn to dusk onMay5th wewillalsostopallunloadedcoaltrainstravelingeast/southapproaching mile 122.

We will not interfere with other freight trains using this line on May 5th, nor will we interfere with the movement of Amtrak Trains using the New Westminster Subdivision on that day:

• Cascades # 513, passing mile 122 at approximately 7:40 a.m. en route to Bellingham;
• Cascades # 510, passing mile 122 at approximately 10:30 a.m. en route to Vancouver;
• Cascades # 517, passing mile 122 at approximately 6:45 p.m. en route to Bellingham; and
• Cascades # 516, passing mile 122 at approximately 9:50 p.m. en route to Vancouver.

We will step off the tracks well in advance of the arrival of Amtrak service. Our spotters to the south and north will give us notice of the approach of any freight traffic, and we will step away for these trains as well. A 21 MPH speed restriction is in place for some distance both sides of mile 122 of the New Westminster Subdivision, which is the site of a well used foot crossing that is safe and familiar to both pedestrians and train crews. We are confident that we can safely remove ourselves from the tracks to allow the passage of Amtrak service and freight trains.

Our spotters in the USA and Canada will provide us with notice well in advance if coal trains are moving anywhere on the New Westminster Subdivision on May 5th. We ask you to stand down all coal traffic on this day in order to avoid a confrontation at mile 122 and potential disruption of passenger rail service.

8 thoughts on “Hansen to block Buffet's coal export trains”

  1. Considering railroad police have the statutory authority to arrest for trespassing on railroad property and that the railroads could sue for loss of revenue…..this might be interesting….

  2. How are they going to stop a train? By the time the operator sees them it will be too late to stop something that big, that heavy and that long. It is one thing to be too stupid to understand the dynamics of global climate, thermodynamics, or differences of causation & correlation; but not understanding basic physics is just not acceptable.

  3. Now I’m thinking of that scene at the beginning of Fried Green Tomatoes where the brother gets his foot caught. Mashed Green Caballeros? The secret’s in the sauce.

  4. Buffet is in favor of ‘The Buffet Rule’, whereby the wealthy pay more income tax. So there’s no way he would be against blocking his coal trains — just another cost to be borne by the rich.

    Interestingly, I have scoured this document back and forth, including the pdf, and I can’t find anything that shows Hansen wrote or sent it.

  5. If Canada Border Services are doing their job Hansen will not be allowed into Canada – he has a record!

  6. What they do not understand is that occupying the tracks to prevent coal from moving is a violation of rights. Also, the fact that their science on global warming is false is of no concern to them. Though they sound respectful and polite they violate rights nonetheless.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.