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by Dr. Alan Lockwood

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Kinder Morgan Decision: A Victory for Public Health

May 8, 2013


Andy Harris, MD   Advisory Board, OPSR     503. 871. 2011

Regna Merritt,  Campaign Director OPSR     971. 235. 7643 





Kinder Morgan Decision:

A Victory for Public Health


Today Kinder Morgan announced that the corporation has ceased plans to site a coal export facility at Port Westward (St. Helens) in Columbia County, Oregon.

The announcement was cheered by Oregon physicians and public health advocates.


“This decision translates into healthier air and water for Oregonians. It means there will be fewer patients with asthma, lung cancer, heart disease, strokes and sleep disorders in affected communities,“ said Dr. Andy Harris of Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility (OPSR). “Coal is the dirtiest and most dangerous fossil fuel. Coal exports through the Pacific Northwest would nullify progress made and create new sources of morbidity and mortality.  We’re celebrating a victory for public health today.”


Physicians for Social Responsibility found in 2009 that coal pollutants affect all major body organ systems and contribute to four of the five leading causes of mortality in the U.S.: heart disease, cancer, stroke and lower respiratory diseases. Today we believe that coal is one of the top ten killers in the U.S.


PSR is particularly concerned with preventing negative health impacts to environmental justice communities and those most vulnerable to the impacts of coal, including infants, children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing disease.


Over 375 Oregon and Washington physicians, part of a group of over 615 health professionals and public health advocates engaged in this issue, recognize significant risks associated with coal exports and have called for a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment and a programmatic Environmental Statement before decisions are made and permits issued.


Though the decision was described by a Kinder Morgan spokesperson as having nothing to do with local resistance to coal exports, it followed closely on the heels of key city council decisions and a controversial Columbia County planning hearing this week.


On Monday evening, the Scappoose City Council heard citizens express concerns about the proximity of schools and parks to railroad tracks, a potential increase in the incidence of childhood asthma and negative impacts to business initiatives. The council then voted unanimously in support of a resolution that sent a strong message to the Port and to Kinder Morgan. Stating that Kinder Morgan proposed to bring coal to its facility via unit trains (up to 1,440 rail cars empty and full per day) on Portland & Western rail lines; and that those rail lines run through the middle of the City of Scappoose and other communities in Columbia County; the resolution reads in part:


THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED AS FOLLOWS, that the Scappoose City Council requests a thorough study done by all relevant Oregon agencies including; the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Transportation, and the Oregon Department of Lands to measure and assess the impact of coal unit trains on the community of Scappoose. Issues to be specifically addressed in this study should include: Family and Children, Property Values, Schools, Security, Emergency Issues, Coal Dust, Environmental, Noise, Social, Transportation, and Impacts on Business, including future economic development. If the above mentioned agencies or other state agencies cannot study any of the above mentioned concerns, then Kinder-Morgan should pay for those remaining studies using an independent, nonbiased, third party.


The resolution also calls on the Port to review the studies requested above.


The same evening, citing concerns for human health, for the Columbia River and about the financial stability of Ambre Energy, Scappoose City Council members declined to support a proposed resolution in support of Ambre’s train-barge-ship proposal, which would move coal from barges to ocean-going vessels at Port Westward.






Guided by the values and expertise of medicine and public health, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility (OPSR) works to protect human life from the gravest threats to health and survival.  Visit www.


OPSR partners with POWER PAST COAL, an ever-growing alliance of health, environmental, businesses, clean-energy, faith and community groups working to stop coal export off the West Coast. Visit