Coal Train May Be Derailed

By: Christen McCurdy with The Lund Report

Coal exports by rail to the state's ports have a group of doctors, environmental activists, neighborhood activists and Indian tribes concerned.

A group of doctors, environmental activists, neighborhood activists and Indian tribes has called on the governor’s office and the Oregon Health Authority to perform a health impact assessment before granting permits for coal exports by rail to the state’s ports – which a spokesperson for the governor’s office has called “premature.”

Citing a pending environmental impact assessment from the federal government, Tim Raphael, a spokesperson for Governor John Kitzhaber’s office, said, “Until the federal work is done, we think it’s premature to be considering state options.”

Last week, speakers at a press conference hosted by Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility talked about the effects of coal dust on air and water quality – as well as the additional public health ramifications of an increase in rail traffic and diesel exhaust, since coal trains are heavier than other freight trains and need additional engines to be pulled. Coal trains may also be more likely to derail because coal dust is so fine it can cover the ball bearings and make it more difficult for trains to run, said Dr. Andy Harris, an ophthalmologist at Oregon Health & Science University who has served on the national board of director of Physicians for Social Responsibility for 13 years.

Increased derailments can in turn affect the soil and water quality of surrounding areas, including the tribal lands through which some of the proposed rail lines pass, said Kristina Proszek, an environmental review coordinator for the Yakama Nation. (Read full article)