Citizens throughout the Northwest are volunteering countless hours to help protect the Columbia River and the Gorge from coal exports. This week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed that it shares many of the same concerns. In a strongly worded letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—the federal agency considering whether to authorize the first coal export terminal in Oregon—EPA urged the Corps to consider the broad impacts of coal export to our communities, our families, and our river.
EPA recommends a common-sense approach: the Corps should consider the impacts of the half dozen coal export proposals together, not proceed with blinders on.
The Corps is accepting public comments on the Morrow Pacific Project until May 5th. To submit a comment to the Corps, click here. The Morrow Pacific Project would transport 8.8 million tons of coal to Oregon via trains from Wyoming and Montana, transfer the coal onto barges at the Port of Morrow (Boardman, OR), barge the coal down the Columbia to the Port of St. Helens (near Clatskanie, OR) and transfer the coal from barges onto ocean-going ships bound for Asia.
EPA’s letter raised serious concerns about the public health and environmental impacts of coal export. The letter states:
Transporting and transloading up to 8.8 million tons of coal with eleven trains, twelve loaded barge tows, and two Panamax ships per week has the potential to significantly impact human health and the environment. Two of our preliminary concerns relate to the potential for adverse effects from project-related coal dust and diesel pollution.
EPA’s letter goes on to state:
Coal dust is a human health concern because it can cause pneumoconiosis, bronchitis and emphysema. Coal dust is an environmental concern because it may settle on water, soil, or vegetation and impair biological processes . . . In addition coal dust has been sown to cause tumors in experimental animals.
EPA also expressed serious concerns about impacts to endangered salmon and cultural resources. Joining communities across the Northwest, EPA urged the Corps to look at the combined impacts of exporting coal from multiple proposed terminals before making any decisions on whether to green-light the coal export.
Thanks to everyone who is helping to get the word out on the serious threats from coal exports.
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