Coal is one of the dirtiest and most dangerous fuels in existence. From coal dust in our lungs to climate-busting emissions and air pollution, health professionals know that each stage of coal's extraction, transport, and combustion presents a danger to health and safety. Though Oregon and Washington have secured victories in phasing out the burning of coal for power in our region, coal exports remain a looming threat to the health of our communities and environment.
Extreme weather, intense wildfire seasons, and massive storms fueled by warming oceans are clear signs that global climate chaos is upon us. It can be difficult to maintain hope in these dark times. But a recent victory, the denial of a key permit for the largest coal export facility in the nation, renewed our hope. Read on for more details.
Longview, WA (Millennium Bulk Projects):
If you are a (non-physician) health professional, public health advocate or if you work in the health community in Washington State, please read our Washington Health Community Statement. Add your name to this statement.
If you have already signed on, thank you so much for lending your voice on this critically important issue. For more details, please contact Regna Merritt.
Cherry Point (Gateway Pacific), WA:
On May 9th, 2016, the Army Corps of Engineers delivered its historic decision to deny permits for SSA Marine’s proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal, a coal export facility at Xwe’chi’eXen, also known as Cherry Point, Washington. The Army Corps agreed with the Lummi Nation that building a 48 million ton per year coal terminal would have adverse impacts upon the Lummi Nation's fishing rights and way of life. By denying permits for the largest proposed coal export terminal in North America, the Army Corps is upholding the Lummi Nation’s treaty rights and protecting the Salish Sea for all people who call the Pacific Northwest home.
Please read the August 28th, 2015 letter from Oregon PSR, Washington PSR, PSR National, and Dr. Frank James to the Army Corps of Engineers in support of the Lummi Nation's request.
British Columbia, Canada:
One of the Canada’s top officials, Premier Christy Clark, requested that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stop the export of U.S. coal out of British Columbia’s ports yesterday. This request comes after the Trump Administration imposed a tax on Canadian lumber coming into the United States. If this request is approved, communities across the Pacific Northwest will benefit from a decrease in coal dust and diesel pollution that has long threatened the health of those living along rail lines. Open topped rail cars carrying coal contaminates air and water with particles containing arsenic, lead, mercury, and other dangerous pollutants.
Read the full press release: BC Premier requests end to US coal exports through Canada
Boardman and Port Westward, OR:
Oregon's Department of State Lands carefully considered and denied a proposal to move huge amounts of coal from Montana and Wyoming to Asia. As a group of health care providers and public health advocates, we understand the significant risks to human health posed by massive coal shipments on our rivers and through our communities.
While there are currently no new proposals pending in Oregon, we believe that, at the very least, Governor Brown must review both a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment and a full Environmental Impact Statement before allowing any Oregon agency to grant a permit for any such project.
Please read the Position Statement on Coal Exports from concerned Oregon physicians to learn more about public health threats associated with proposed coal export through Oregon.
In addition, please read our letter from health professionals and public health advocates to Governor Kitzhaber. Health advocates like you helped turn the tide against coal exports in Oregon.
NEWS ARCHIVE ON COAL EXPORTS:
NW Coal Exports: A Threat to Health and Safety (factsheet, 10/15/14)
Resolution to Oppose Coal Transport by the City Council of Beaverton (Beaverton City Council Resolution #4182, 6/18/13)
Resolution from the Portland City Council on Coal Exports and Health Impact Assessment (Portland City Council Resolution #36962, 10/4/12)
Resolution from the Portland City Council Opposing Coal Trains (Portland City Council Resolution #36959, 9/19/13)
Resolution from the City of Scappoose Regarding the Kinder-Morgan Coal Export Project for Port Westward (Scappoose City Council Resolution #13-03, 5/6/13)
Resolution to Oppose Coal Transport by the City Council of Eugene (Eugene City Council Resolution #5065, 10/24/12)
Resolution to Oppose Coal Transport by the City Council of Milwaukie (Milwaukie City Council Resolution #55-2012, 10/22/12)
Read more about Multnomah County studying the health risks of coal (9/10/12, Bonnie Stewart,OPB's EarthFix), and view video of Jeff Cogen's announcement.
Read about Portland City Council Commissioner Amanda Fritz's coal export resolution (9/11/12, Scott Learn, The Oregonian).
Read Toxic Coal Blues, an article about opposition to plans to ship coal through Portland (8/22/12, Mindy Cooper, The Portland Observer)
HEALTH EFFECTS RELATED TO COAL EXPORTS:
Diesel particulate matter is associated with:
- impaired pulmonary development in adolescents;
- increased cardiopulmonary mortality and all-cause mortality;
- measurable pulmonary inflammation;
- increased severity and frequency of asthma attacks, ER visits, and hospital admissions in children;
- increased rates of myocardial infarction (heart attack) in adults;
- increased risk of cancer;
- neurodevelopmental disorders.
Coal dust is associated with:
- chronic bronchitis;
- pulmonary fibrosis (pneumoconiosis);
- environmental contamination through the leaching of toxic heavy metals.
Noise exposure causes:
- cardiovascular disease, including increased blood pressure, arrhythmia;
- stroke, and ischemic heart disease;
- cognitive impairment in children;
- sleep disturbance and resultant fatigue, hypertension, arrhythmia, and increased rate of accidents and injuries;
- exacerbation of mental health disorders such as depression, stress and anxiety, and psychosis.
Frequent long trains at rail crossings will mean:
- delayed emergency medical service response times;
- increased accidents, traumatic injury and death.