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Press Conference on Proposed Coal Exports

July 19, 2012 - July 19, 2012
Portland, Oregon

Medical Experts Call for Coal Export Public Health Study

 Pulmonary and Neurological Impacts to Terminal Workers and Neighboring Community Members Top List of Concerns

Thursday’s press conference marks the release of the Oregon Physician Position Statement to Governor Kitzhaber. The statement, signed by 130 physicians, calls for a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment (HIA). The Governor’s Environmental Justice Task Force, local Neighborhood Associations, members of the health community and the Yakama Nation support the call for an HIA before any state-level decisions are made.

Thursday, July 19th, 2012, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Multnomah County Central Library, US Bank Room (801 SW 10th Avenue in Portland)

In their statement, physicians identified five major areas of health impacts, including but not limited to pulmonary and neurological impacts, from proposed transport and storage of over 150 million tons of coal in Oregon and the Columbia Gorge each year.

“We believe that the health impacts would be substantial, including increased rates of many diseases and increased death rates directly attributable to exposure at coal mines, terminals, docks and in communities all along the line. The toxic effects of mercury and diesel particulate pollution are real and measureable,” said Dr. Andy Harris, advisory board member for Oregon PSR.

"The fact that six coal trains derailed this month, including one in Washington and one in Illinois which tragically resulted in two deaths, should raise serious concern about the safety and health risks coal exports poses to children, families, and communities everywhere," stated Diane Winn, RN, MPH, a Sierra Club volunteer who spent her professional career studying safety issues.

Ben Duncan, who represents public health interests on the Governor’s Environmental Justice Task Force, stated, “Low income communities and communities of color often bear the burden of environmental and health impacts.  In Oregon, we see this reflected by inequities in health outcomes, including higher rates of asthma. Coal trains that would travel through these over-burdened and traditionally unrepresented communities are an Environmental Justice issue that must not be ignored.”

Statement of Chairman Harry Smiskin on behalf of the Yakama Nation:

“The Yakama people are among the most vulnerable to the human health risks of coal dust, rail and barge accidents involving tribal fishers, contamination of our foods, and the air pollution that drifts into our region from Asian coal-fired power plants.   The Yakama Nation strongly supports the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility and concerned physicians of Oregon in calling for a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment of coal export through Pacific Northwest ports.”  

 Documents to be released include:

  • Position Statement on Coal Exports from Concerned Oregon Physicians to Governor Kitzhaber
  • Letter to Governor Kitzhaber from Health Community
  • Coal Train and Barge Resolution: North Portland Neighborhood Chairs Network
  • Approved Motion to Oppose Proposals for the Export of Coal through NW States, Portland Metro Region and the Linnton Neighborhood
  • Environmental Justice Task Force Letter to Governor Kitzhaber re: Coal Transport and Health Impact Assessment
  • Yakama Nation Fact Sheet on Coal Export Proposals
More information »