Coal company, railroads line up against Spokane measure

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SPOKANE — Opponents have raised about $151,000 to defeat a Spokane ballot measure that would fine railroad operators for certain coal and crude oil rail shipments through the city’s downtown core.

Voters are deciding in November whether to approve Proposition 2, which would make rail shipments of uncovered coal or untreated crude oil a civil infraction, punishable by a fine of up to $261 per rail car.

The Spokesman-Review reports that the largest donors against the measure are Utah-based Lighthouse Resources, which owns several coal mines in Wyoming and Montana, as well as BNSF Railway and Union Pacific railroad.

The citizens group supporting the initiative has raised about $6,000, mostly from individual contributions.

If approved, the measure is certain to face a steep uphill legal fight since the federal government regulates railroad operations and safety.

Opponents warn of costly, legal challenges. Supporters insist the measure won’t conflict with federal laws.