During a storm that dumped severe snow and rain showers in Wyoming during the weekend of May 14-15, several cars carrying PRB coal left the tracks. Fifteen cars were involved in the Burlington North Santa Fe (BNSF) train derailment the afternoon of May 14, and 28 cars involved in the Union Pacific incident the early morning of May 15, halting a total of some six million tons of coal.
The first week following the accident, outgoing shipments from the region dropped 17% on Burlington Northern and 38% on Union Pacific. The drop, however, was seemingly temporary.
According to the DOE report, coal shipments were improving but still recovering as of May 30. In it, John Bromley of Union Pacific said on May 24 that his company loaded 34 PRB coal trains, compared with the usual 36 per day, and BNSF corporate affairs executive Richard Russack said shipments were flowing about two trains per day below the average of 31.
DOE representative Fred Freme concurred with the report. “Further out, I really don’t think it is going to have much of an effect. But for right now, because they can’t get the coal out, there’s definitely an effect on the market because consumers aren’t getting their deliveries. But I think it’s very short term.”
The DOE report said customers were taking whatever measures they could to get through this disruption but in general the hope was that shipments got back to normal as soon as possible because most power plant coal stockpiles were at or near historic lows. The rail line normally carries the vast majority of Wyoming PRB coal shipments to the east and south, as well as to closer power plants in Wyoming and neighbouring western states.