From Montana to the coast, coal dust threatens humans health

Eric Shew News

Sightline Institude :  and

A new study shows Bellingham and Longview terminals would harm communities along rail route.

This article is part of the series A Crackdown on Coal Dust

Update 4/4/16: The Gateway Pacific Terminal project has requested a temporary suspension of the proposal’s environmental review process.

If the coal industry gets its way, the Columbia River Gorge will soon host dozens of loaded coal trains each day, carrying as much as 96 million tons annually to export terminals in Washington. It’s an amount of coal so vast that a year’s worth of the cargo would dwarf even the biggest landscape features in the region and overshadow the tallest structures in nearby Portland, Oregon. We’ve long known that burning coal is harmful to air quality, and now a recent study conducted in the Gorge shows that even just transporting it in the usual way—in uncovered, open-top rail cars—also has serious air quality consequences.

Columbia River Gorge study

The research, led by Daniel Jaffe, professor of atmospheric and environmental chemistry at the University of Washington, measured diesel particulate matter and coal dust released by the coal trains that currently traverse the railways in the Columbia River Gorge. Both particulate matter and coal dust contain toxic, microscopic pollutants harmful to our health.

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