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Article: Setting the record straight on coal exports - Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports -- The Wall Street Journal

Apr 19th, 2013

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

-- 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.

 

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