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Coal Battle Continues – Help Needed for Strategic Health Impact Assessment

coal in washington
Photo by Paul Anderson

Friends of the San Juans reports that your help is needed to fund an important study regarding the health effects of diesel emissions and coal dust associated with coal trains transporting thermal coal from the Powder River Basin to the proposed Gateway Pacific Coal Terminal at Cherry Point.  Please see the the following announcement from Dr. Frank James, Public Health Officer, San Juan County, which gives more detail about the nature of the proposed study, current funders and how you can help by giving a modest contribution.


Plans to massively expand coal exports from Washington and Oregon ports as well as the proposal to build North America’s largest coal terminal at Cherry Point have raised serious concerns in our community.  Chief among these concerns are the potential impacts to air quality, water quality, and human health. 


The chief proponent of the Georgia Pacific Terminal Project, SSA Marine, is responsible by law for funding an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).   The recently completed public scoping process for the EIA has made it clear that SSA Marine will seek to narrow the scope of the study to the area immediately around the proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point. 


The potential health and environmental effects of transporting large amounts of coal extend all along the transportation corridor in 4 states.  It is vital that the public be made aware of the potential risks of such a project using the best available science, unbiased by the political process. The best approach to understanding these potential effects is with a formal Health Impact Assessment (HIA).  An HIA is a combination of methods and tools that systematically assesses the potential effects of a project on the health of a population and the distribution of those effects within the population.   Whatcom Docs, a group comprising over 200 local health care practitioners, has called for such a study for nearly two years. In addition many political decision makers in the Pacific Northwest have called for a comprehensive study.


A team of the Pacific Northwest’s leading public health researchers, led by Dr. Melissa Ahern of Washington State University, has put forward just such a study. If funded, scientists at WSU, UW School of Public Health and Oregon Public Health Institute would conduct the study collaboratively. The proposed HIA will analyze the comprehensive health impacts of the GPT at the Cherry Point terminal site, and the cumulative impacts along the entire transportation corridor from the Powder River Basin to Whatcom County and other proposed ports.  It is entitled “Proposed Regional Strategic Health Impact Assessment (HIA):  Potential Impacts Related to Multiple Proposed Coal Export Terminals in Washington and Oregon”


The Health Impact Project has invited this HIA proposal, which is a collaboration project between the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. If funded, the expected level of funding from Pew/RWJF would be $150,000. The cities of Seattle, Spokane, Edmonds, Marysville and Sumner, as well as Multnomah and King Counties, have collectively committed to contributing an additional $100,000.   Given that the total estimated cost of the HIA is $312,000, additional funding of at least $50,000 needs to be identified in the next few weeks, because the completed proposal is due May 31st, 2013.


An independent and comprehensive Health Impact Assessment for the proposed coal terminals is absolutely critical to help guide our communities and decision-makers as we move forward.   Who better to help fund this than the community that needs the information?  


Whatcom Community Foundation has opened a fund where donations can be sent.  Thedonations are 100% tax deductible and you will receive a letter of acknowledgement from the Foundation for your tax purposes. 


We can do this with everyone chipping in a small amount!  If 2,000 people each donate $25, we will completely fund the remainder of the study.


Please consider donating $15, $25, $50 or $100!   Or more if you can!


Here’s how to send your TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATION (2 options):

1.       Write a check to “Whatcom Community Foundation”.

In the Memo line of bottom left write: “Coal Export Health Study”

Send to: Whatcom Community Foundation, 119 Grand Avenue, Bellingham, WA 98225

You will receive a letter of acknowledgement for tax purposes.


2.      On-line:  Go to

Click on the GREEN “Make a Donation” tab.  Then the RED “Donate” Tab.

At the bottom, under Credit Card information,

type “Coal Export Health Study” in the Special Instructions box.  That will ensure your donation gets to the right fund.

You will receive a letter of acknowledgement for tax purposes


Please be part of this great effort!   Share with your friends!

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