Coal exports: Corporate profit over human and environmental health
Abstract: Proposed coal exports from the Northwest to Asia have multiple regional and global consequences to health and the environment. Human health and safety concerns will be discussed in some detail. But beyond the medical consequences of coal export, several interesting facets have emerged: Coal companies make the singular argument that coal exports create jobs in a part of the country that has among the highest unemployment rates. However, there is mounting evidence that the shipping of coal through Oregon and Washington may result in a net loss of jobs. Coal shipments disproportionally affect low-income people who live and work near rail lines. Global climate change likewise affects people living on the margins, especially in drought-prone areas of the tropics. Transport and burning of coal are social and environmental justice issues. The grassroots organizing effort by the Power Past Coal Coalition and its strategy to engage the public, city councilors, county commissioners, legislators, the governor and the Congressional delegations of OR and WA is a fascinating story of grassroots activism.
Learning Areas:Environmental health sciences
Discuss the economics of proposed coal exports from the Powder River Basin, through the Pacific Northwest, to Asia. Explain the health consequences of coal mining and transport, including the effects of diesel particulate matter, coal dust, noise, frequent long train crossings impeding emergency vehicle transport, and train and barge accidents. Describe the environmental consequences of burning coal, in the U.S. and abroad, including increased air pollution and ground level ozone, mercury pollution, and global warming. Discuss, from a social justice perspective, the actions of corporations hoping to profit from massive coal exports, the role of labor, and the implications for U.S. and world energy policy. Explain how coalitions of health care and environmental activists and concerned citizens are working to prevent coal transport through the Pacific Northwest, and how their actions represent a model for others working to fight corporate greed and promote clean energy technologies.
Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been one of the chief spokespersons for Oregon PSR, joining with Power Past Coal Coalition, to oppose coal export terminals in the Northwest because of health, safety and environmental concerns. I have met with the Governor, the Oregon Land Board, and several city councils and county commissions about this issue.
Any relevant financial relationships? No
I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.