SEATTLE, April 18, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Even as proposals for new Northwest bulk export facilities proceed through the rigorous environmental review mandated by law, opponents continue to mount an aggressive effort to block these projects. In particular, recent efforts to fan concern about alleged health impacts from an increase in railway traffic defy logic and misrepresent the facts, potentially leading to misunderstandings that could jeopardize thousands of good, family-wage jobs and millions of dollars in revenue that the new bulk terminals would bring to the Northwest, where one out of four jobs is reliant on trade.
Against this backdrop, the City of Seattle is expected to announce early next week that it has initiated a health impacts study and is reaching out to other local governments for financial contributions to cover the estimated $300,000 cost. "We believe this study is unnecessary and that there are better uses for taxpayer dollars," said Lauri Hennessey, Spokesperson for the Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports. "And, if this study moves forward, we hope it is conducted in a manner long prized in the Northwest, using objective academic experts, in the public eye, and with full peer review."
The importance of the export projects to the Northwest makes it essential that public discussion be based on a clear understanding of these and other issues.
Some important facts to set the record straight:
Coal dust is not an issue in the Northwest. Trains carrying coal have moved through the region for decades. In all this time, the Northwest Clean Air Agency, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, and Spokane Clean Air Agency have not received a single complaint related to coal dust blowing from trains.
Roger McClellan, a toxicologist and former chairman of the National Academy of Sciences committee on toxicology was recently quoted by the Associated Press, commenting when environmental organizations in the Northwest recently launched a campaign over the discovery of alleged coal near a rail line: "As an expert in toxicology who has worked with EPA, other federal and state agencies, and private industry on human health risks over my 50 year career, I can tell you that the mere presence of coal by a railroad track or in the water is not a health hazard. Coal has been used for home heating and industrial use in WA state and across the U.S. for centuries. Coal has been traveling through the Northwest by rail for over 40 years. Claiming that finding a piece of coal on the ground or in the water leads to a health or environment risk violates one of the basic tenets of toxicology. Any decision on exports of coal needs to be driven by scientific facts and analysis. It is irresponsible to release exaggerated claims and mislead the public and regulators about the impact of moving coal."
Mike Elliott, Spokesperson for the Washington State Legislative Board of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, said, "Let's be honest about what's really at issue here for opponents – climate change, not any fabricated train-related threat. Opponents are free to argue against fossil fuels, climate change, and whatever else they want. It is their right. But let's be upfront in our debate, and make the motives behind our arguments clear. Click here for video.
Whatcom County Physician Warren Howe has spoken out about this campaign. Click here for video.
If just 10% of long-haul freight now being moved by truck moved by rail instead, national fuel savings would exceed one billion gallons a year and annual greenhouse gas emissions would drop by more than 12 million tons. This is equivalent to taking 2 million cars off the road or planting 280 million trees.
Trains only account for 0.8% of the Washington state's total PM2.5 emissions (fine particulate matter)—way behind wood stoves (19%) and farming equipment (17%).
Rail remains the most fuel efficient and environmentally friendly means of ground transportation in America, with trains four times more fuel-efficient than trucks.
Overall, train emissions account for just 8.5% of Washington's total diesel emissions, whereas vehicles contribute 69%.
About the Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports The Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports is a non-profit trade organization advancing export infrastructure to strengthen regional trade economies in the Pacific Northwest. The Alliance represents a strong labor and business coalition comprised of trade, transport, labor organizations, manufacturing, businesses, civic groups and others who support expanding regional exports for the economic benefits.