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Position Statement on Crude Oil Transport & Storage

To Governors of Washington & Oregon 

From Concerned Washington & Oregon Health Care Professionals*

Energy companies have proposed increases in oil-by-rail transport and storage in the states of Washington and Oregon with subsequent ocean shipments from Pacific Northwest ports. While there was no movement of oil-by-rail in Washington three years ago, dramatic increases in oil extraction from the Bakken fields in North Dakota and Montana and from Canadian oil/tar sands have occurred with significant increases in oil-by-rail traffic. If current proposals are allowed to proceed, the volume of oil-by-rail coming into Washington would increase from the current 19 trains per week to as many as 137 trains per week, each about 1.5 miles long. Each would carry approximately 2.9 million gallons of volatile crude to be stored, in some cases refined, and then exported to other states. This is a larger daily volume than would flow through the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Trains also carry Bakken oil through Oregon to California, and barges carry it from Oregon ports on the Columbia River to Washington and California refineries via the Pacific Ocean. If the federal crude oil export ban were lifted, the number of crude-by-rail trains and barges traveling through Washington and Oregon could increase significantly more than currently projected.

The known risks associated with oil-by-rail transport, oil tank storage, and oil export by vessel pose an unacceptable threat to human health and safety. As concerned Washington and Oregon health care professionals, we are deeply troubled by the public health and safety impacts of these proposals.

A thorough review of data published in peer-reviewed medical journals and other reliable sources is summarized below, and the findings are discussed in greater detail in Appendices A-F.

Read the complete document and add your name to the letter here.

Summary of Major Risks

Major health risks of the proposed oil-by-rail transport, storage, and vessel export in Washington and Oregon include:

1) Delay of emergency vehicles (See Appendix A, Appendix B) 

  • Proposed routes in WA could cause emergency services delays in up to 93 towns and cities;114 and
  • In Oregon, 88 communities currently have at-grade crossings over which unit oil trains operate.77

2) Oil rail car fires, spills, explosions and derailments (See Appendix A)

  • Bakken crude is more volatile and flammable than most other crude oil;88
  • Most is carried in hazardous tank cars (DOT-111s) prone to puncture, spills and fires in train accidents;23, 73
  • Nine significant train derailments have occurred in North America since July 2013,114 one of which resulted in multiple fatalities and injuries;
  • Between June 2011 and December 2013, train derailments occurred on average every 3.5 days in the Northwest;27
  • Three million Washington residents and more than half a million Oregon residents live within a recommended evacuation zone as defined by the US Department of Transportation;108, 114 and
  • Rescue and cleanup crews face risks of toxic exposures,  in addition to risks of fires. (See number 5 below)

3) Adverse health impacts of train noise (See Appendix B)

  • Train noise in populated areas is associated with significant sleep disturbance;1
  • Increased cardiovascular events including myocardial infarction and arrhythmia are associated with nighttime noise and noise exposure greater than 90 decibels (in the range of train horns);95,100 and
  • Adverse cognitive performance and increased psychiatric illness have been observed in children exposed to noise.45

4) Oil storage tank spills, fires and explosions (See Appendix B)

  • Major fires and explosions of petroleum products have occurred at storage terminals within the past 10 years (e.g., Hertfordshire, England, 2005; Raleigh, Mississippi, 2006);
  • Should a fire or explosive event occur at proposed sites located in close proximity to schools and residential areas, injuries and deaths would likely occur; and
  • Several proposed storage tank sites would be located in an earthquake and tsunami zone, increasing the risk of spills, fires and explosions.37

5) Oil spills during loading and vessel transport (See Appendix C, Appendix D)

  • Crude oil exposure during spill and cleanup increases the risk of neurotoxicity, cancer, lung disease, loss of cognitive function, and endocrine disruption in humans;13, 21, 63 and
  • Dispersant chemicals used in cleanup are also highly toxic and associated with increased risks of cancer, lung and endocrine diseases.66, 103

6) Increased air pollution, including diesel particulate matter (See Appendix A)

  • Accounts for the majority of air-toxic cancer risks in the Puget Sound area;33, 90
  • Increased risks of cancers, particularly lung and breast cancer; 6, 9, 18, 26, 29, 32, 98, 117
  • Lower infant birth weight and increased risk of respiratory death in first year of life;22, 75, 121
  • Impaired pulmonary development and increased risk of lung disease in infants,55 children,16, 36, 123 and adolescents;36
  • Increased risk of neurodevelopmental and behavioral disorders in children;8, 15, 74, 82, 83, 93, 111, 112 
  • Increased risk of asthma diagnosis, exacerbation of symptoms, and asthma-related hospitalizations;11, 16, 25, 41, 46, 81, 98, 99, 104
  • Increased risks of acute cardiovascular and cerebrovascular events;10, 14, 30, 65, 69, 70, 84, 85, 87, 92, 97, 118, 119 
  • Enhanced reactions to airborne allergens and immune system impairment;38, 47, 67 and
  • Increased risks of acute and chronic obstructive lung disease,46 systemic inflammation, and overall risk of disease and mortality.6, 29, 30, 61, 70, 87, 89

7) Increased water pollution (See Appendix E)

  • Cancer, digestive, and reproductive health risks associated with oil-contaminated drinking water sources;3, 4, 105
  • Reduced short- and long-term viability of food sources, including salmon and shellfish;51, 94, 114 and
  • Pollution of tribal fishing resources.20, 39, 80, 114

8) Contributions to climate change-induced injury and disease (See Appendix F)

  • Increased heat related illness and health care costs;54, 57, 68
  • Increased extreme weather events with associated injuries and deaths;5, 52, 54, 72
  • Food supply disruption;64
  • Spread of infectious diseases;64 and
  • Disproportionate adverse effects on low income and communities of color.52

As Washington and Oregon health care professionals, we oppose the transport by rail and the storage and shipment of crude oil within our states on the basis of very serious, credible threats to the health of our residents. Further, we call upon Governors of Washington and Oregon, as well as agencies in both states, to deny permits that facilitate the transport, storage and handling of crude oil by rail and/or barge.

* Statement prepared by Washington & Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, released February 2015 / 206.547.2630 / / 503.274.2720 /


Appendix A: Summary of Health Risks for Crude-by-Rail Transport
Appendix B: Summary of Health Risks for Oil Tank Storage
Appendix C: Summary of Health Risks for Oil Export by Marine Vessels
Appendix D: Washington and Oregon Oil Transport Routes & Oil Spill Response Plans
Appendix E: Overview of Water Pollution Risks and Sources
Appendix F: Summary of Health Risks from Climate Change
Appendix G: References


Kim Adams, RN
Nigel David Adler, LAc
Nancy Afman, LICSW
Sunil Kumar Aggarwal, MD, PhD
Kathryn Alexandra, RN
Rick Allen, DC
Bruce Amundson, MD
Hilary Andrews, ND
Ethan Angell, MD
Cyrus Appell, MD
Michelle Apsley, MOT
Wayne Attwood, MD
Mark Backus, MD
Laura Baffes, DC
Douglas Barnard, DC
Mary Bastedo, RN
Jonathan Bell, ND
Patricia Bellamy, BS, RN
Jody Bennett, RN
Michael Berlly, MD
Brenda Beyersdorf, PharmD
Stephen Bezruchka, MD, MPH
Elizabeth Blakney, RN
Richard Blakney, MPH
Dianna Blom, RN, NC-BC
Linda Blue, OT
Sharon Borgerson, RN
Karen Bowman, RN, MN, COHN-S
George Bray, MD
Joan Broeckling, LMHC
Leon Bromley, MSN, ARNP, FNP-BC
Marcia Bryan, RN
A. Sonia Buist, MD
Rogelio Cantu, PA-C
Tina Castañares, MD
Sara Cate, MD, MPH
Edward Cates, MD
Jeannie Chamberlain, RN
Stephanie Chamberlin, RN
Sarah Charley, RN
Rose Christopherson, MD, PhD
Cathryn Chudy, MA
Sterling Clarren, MD
John Colver, PA-C
Kate Costelloe, OTR/L
Chris Cottrell, RN
Mary Ellen Coulter, MD
Wendy Courtemanche, RN
Chris Covert-Bowlds, MD
Rebekah Creswell, RN
Nancy Crumpacker, MD
Cathy Cummins, DC
Dave Cundiff, MD, MPH
Monica Cuneo, MPH
Diane Dakin, MD
Bill Daniell, MD, MPH
Barbara Davis, RN
Gillian Davis, RN, BSN, MAT
Patricia Dawson, MD, PhD
Marilee Dea, BSN/MA
Diane DeBruyckere, BS, RN
Beth Derooy, RN
Kristen Dillon, MD
Susan Doederlein, MD
Martin Donohoe, MD
James Draeger, LPC
Barbara Drageaux, MS
Laurence Ebersole, MHCA
David L. Edwards, MD
Ariel Ehrlich, MD
Phyllis Eide, PhD, MPH, MN, RN
Catherine Ellison, MD
Francis Estalilla, MD
Robin Evans-Agnew, RN, PhD
Elinor Fanning, PhD
Virginia Feldman, MD
Carol Fischer, OTR/L, Med.
Heather Fisher, RN
Lynn Fitz-Hugh, LHMC
Jan Flock, OT
Joyce Follingstad, PhD
Bambie Fontana, BSN, RN
Maxine Fookson, RN, MN
Charles Forster, MD
Hugh Foy, MD
Lynn E. Fox, PhD, CCC-SLP
Erica Frank, MD
Herman Frankel, MD
Dirk Fredekind, PharmD
Russell Freeland, Ed.D
Larry Freeman, MD
Stan Freidberg, MD
Eric Froines, MD
Barbara Gaines, EdD, RN
P. Garodia, MD
Paul Gast, MD
Lee Ann Gekas, MD
Anthony Gerbino, MD
Steven G. Gilbert, PhD
George Girvin, MD
Chris Gojkovich, LMT
Marshall Goldberg, MD, MPH
Angela Gonzalez, RN, BSN
Brenda Grant, MD
Barbara Hageman, MT (ASCP)
David C. Hall, MD
Jonathan Hall, MD
Alex Hamling, MD
Laura Hanks, PA-C
Gwen Hanson, MD
Andy Harris, MD
Dale Harris, MD
Julia Harris, MD, MTCM
Joanna Hatfield, MD
Robert C. Hauck, MD
Geraldine Haynes, RN
Robert Haynes, MD
Charles Heany, PhD
Barbara Henriksen, OTL/R
Kati Henshaw, CMA
William S. Herz, MD
Michael L. Hinnen, MD
Yuri Hiranuma, MD, MPH
Evan H. Hirsch, MD
Betty Hittler, RN
Karen Hofmann, RN
King Holmes, MD, PhD
Sara Holt-Knox, ARNP
Ellen M. Hopkins, RDMC
Adam Hoverman, DO
John Howieson, MD
Megan Hubbard, MD
C. Gordon Hunter, MD
James Hutchinson, MD
Frank James, MD
Heather Jensen, RN, MEd
Lailey Jenkins, LICSW
Lisa Johnson, MD
Renee Johnson, CMA
Sandra Joos, MPH, PhD
Rachelle Katter, Health Instructor
Aaron Katz, CPH
Susan Katz, MD
Teresa Keane, APRN-BC
Amy Kerfoo, MD, MBI
Larry Keyser, PA-C
Marjorie Kircher, MS, OTR
Angelika Koch-Leibmann, MD
Susan Koger, PhD
Steve Kohl, MD
James Krieger, MD, MPH
Karen Kulm, RN
Edward Laclergue, MD
Kenneth Lans, MD, MBA
George Lawrence, MD
Richard Lazare, PhD
Bill Lawson, PA-C
Ken Lee, MD
Judith Lienhard, RN
Shawn Looney, CCC-SLP
Judy Lubera, RN
Andrew Luk, MD, MPH
Eric Luria, MD
Eva Ma, BS, OT
Margaret MacLeod, MD
Luke Magnotto, MD
Russell Maier, MD
Don Manghelli, LCSW
Luis Manriquez, MD
Jan Manske, MS, OTR/L
Sharon Marer, MS
Dani Maron-Oliver, RN, MPS
Rich Martin, DO, MPH
David Masuda, MD, MS
Jane Mayer, RN
Louise McDonald, MSW
Megan McIntyre, PA-C
John Mensher, MD
Mary Anne Mercer, DrPH, MPH, RN
Regna Merritt, PA
Ashlee Mickelson, MD
Leslie Methe, RN
Joseph Miller, PhD
Sharon Miller, MSW, LCSW
Judith Milner, MD, MEd, Spec.Ed.
Carol Miner, RN
Anita Misra-Press, PhD
Donald Mitchell, MD
Patricia Mizutani, MD
Daniel Moorman, MD
Sarah Morken, OTRL/CHT
Catherine Morton, LPC
Carole Most, RN, Womens Health Care NP
Suzanne Mulvey, PharmD
Patricia Murphy, ND, LAc
Gudrun Murti, MD
Wendy Nelson, RN, MS
Martha Neuringer, PhD
Bonnie New, MD, MPH
William Newmann, MD
Greg Nigh, ND
Joan Nugent, MN
Margaret O'Donnell, RN, MSW
Elizabeth O'Halloran, MD
Kelly O'Hanley MD, MPH
Patrick O'Herron, MD
Grant O'Keefe, MD, MPH
Sanford Olson, DVM
Georgia Opheim, MD
Assaf Oron, PhD
Patricia Ortiz, MD
John Osborn, MD
Jim Overton, RN
John Pearson, MD
Rod Peterson, MD
Sarah Petras, MPH
Michelle Petrofes, MD
John Petterson, MD
William Phillips, MD
Barbara Poulsen, LMT
Steven J. Prince, PhD
Kirk Prindle, MD
Jennifer Profant, CMA
Martin Raitiere, MD
Gretchen Randolph, PhD, PMHNP
Richard Rapport, MD
Bonnie Reagan, MD
Elaine Redner, RN, BSN, CDMS
Marcus Rempel, MD
Jack Rice, MD
Susan Ring, MT
Wendy Ring, MD, MPH
Ryan Robbins, ND
Don A. Rogers, MD
Marion E. Rogers, RN
Chelley Rohrig, RN, COHN-S
Katie Roman, CMA
Gail Rossi, RN
Joan Rothlein, PhD
Michèle Ruess, OTR
Dave Ruud, MD
David Russ, DC
Richard Rust, MD
Susan Ruyle, MD
Irene Saikevych, MD
Kathy Salmonson, RN
Cathy Sampson-Kruse, MSW
Susan Sandwell, RN, BSN
K. Burnell Schaetzel-Hill, DO
Kathy Schaeffer, OTR
Susan Schlosser, BSN/MA
Bill Schnall, MD
Jim Scott, MD
Joseph Shaeffer, ARNP, CMM
Alice Shapiro, MS
Wenonah Sharpe, RN
Margaret Shield, PhD
Clara Shin, MD
Randy Siltanen, MD
Anne Simmons, PT
Constance Simpson, RN
Donna Slepack, PhD
Julie Smith, RN, MN
Keri Smith, RD
Lucy Smith, ND
Peter Sodt, MD, FACC, FAAP
Julia Sokoloff, MD
Michael Soman, MD, MPH
Shelley Sovola, L.Ac, OMD
David Sparling, MD, FAAP
Peter S. Spencer, PhD, FANA, FRCPath
Sandra Springer, RN
James Squire, MD
Rick Staggenborg, MD
Jane Stavish, RN
Susan Stein, RN
Karen Steingart, MD, MHP
Alona Steinke, RN
Carola Stepper, RN, LAc
Hal Stockbridge, MD, MPH
Donald Storey, MD
Phyllis J. Sturges, MSW, ED.D
Nancy Sullivan, CNM, MS
Patricia Szot, PhD
Cathy Tashiro, RN, MPH, PhD
Catherine TerBurgh, MSN-FNP
Mary Margaret Thomas, RN, MSN
Sue Thomas, RN
Maye Thompson, PhD, RN
William Thorbecke, PhD
Darlene A. Townsend, PhD
Theodora Tsongas, MS, PhD
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Gordon Wheat, MD
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Ashley Wilson, CNM, WHNP
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Alan Winter, RN, MS
Elizabeth Wise, MD
Richard Wise, MD
Virginia Wolff, MD
Francis Wood, MD
Sandy Wood, RN
Christine Woolsey, BSN, RN
Jason Wright, NP
Rachael Wyman, MD
Carol Wysham, MD

Signatures updated 10/29/2015

Read the complete document and add your name to the letter here.