I read with interest The Spokesman-Review April 18 story about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wanting a full health impact review of proposed coal exports. This is particularly important for Spokane because all the trains from the coal fields in Montana and Wyoming will be coming right through our community.
Spokane is known as the choke point for coal trains heading to ports in Washington and Oregon because the lines split south and west after they leave Spokane. Potential impacts here are a huge increase in diesel particulates, traffic congestion at rail crossings in the Spokane Valley, coal dust and increased noise and risk of accidents.
Diesel particulates are particularly worrisome. A 2010 Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency study showed increased cancer risk for those who live near the Parkwater rail yards in Spokane Valley. We could see 40 or more trains coming through downtown every day, so it makes sense that any study of the impacts of exporting all that coal to Asia should include the impacts that Spokane would face.
I hope our state and local officials join Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber in calling for a full evaluation of the environmental and health impacts.
Executive director, The Lands Council