Walking The Path to Environmental Victory in Oregon

Photo by Carla Hervert

I’m writing this from the inner sanctum of the State Capitol building – the 4th floor of the Oregon House of Representatives.  It’s Tuesday, and in only three days on March 8th, Beyond Toxics supporters will join me to walk these hallways and talk with elected leaders.  It’s our day to discuss better pest management policy, more tracking and accountability and, as a result, pesticide reduction. What’s our goal? A healthier world. How are we going to do it? Show up, speak up and work for change.

Beyond Toxics is making impressive headway to passing the Safe Public Places Act, but we can’t do it alone!  WE NEED EVERYONE’S GOOD ENERGY AND PARTICIPATION!  (See who’s already supporting the bill here – and sign on now!)  As environmental advocates, you and I are saying to our legislators … please work hard to pass laws that protect kid’s health, bees, and salmon. The Safe Public Places Act (known in the Capitol as the State Integrated Pest Management bill) will set a new and welcomed standard for strong government policies on toxic chemicals (and a higher respect for the values of human rights and precaution).

Beyond Toxics is a member of the Oregon Conservation Network – the consortium of environmental groups with OLCV working to pass good environmental protection laws. OCN is supporting the Safe Public Places Act!  The OCN staff and environmental lobbyists who stand up for environmental protection laws at the State Capitol deeply appreciate your dedication!  They know the incredible sacrifice of taking a whole day to make environmental health a top issue in the State Senate and House!

It’s not too late to sign-up to go with us!

As you walk the hallways of the inner sanctum, they’re going to be giving Beyond Toxics’ volunteers big smiles and high fives to thank you!  You are the true grassroots, intrepid, and ethical voices and faces of what matters most – Oregonians committing to going beyond toxics.

See you bright and early on Lobby Day – March 8.

Truly, Lisa Arkin



Social Change Requires Heart

On this Valentine’s Day of affection, I want to express my gratitude to our members and volunteers. Knowing that you care keeps me traveling back and forth to the State Legislature to talk to elected leaders about pesticide use reduction. You give me the daily fortitude to deliver the message that Oregonians can, and must, be leaders in the fight to reduce pollution in our bodies and the environment. Believe me, that message isn’t always well received by state lawmakers – they require a lot of convincing! So, with you in mind, I continue to knock on their doors and explain how they can help protect Oregon from harmful chemicals.

When I’m fighting for sensible policies to reduce the use of toxic chemicals, I’m always thinking of our members, like Heidi, who is a new volunteer helping us plan our March 8 Lobby Day in Salem. Heidi works full-time and has a three-year old daughter. She wants to be able to take her little girl to playground without worrying about pesticides sprayed on lawns and pathways.

Today I think of Lynn, who pays many hundreds of dollars to the Oregon Department of Forestry to get notices of pending helicopter pesticide sprays in rural Lane County. Lynn brings this information to her rural neighbors so that they can take steps to protect their farm animals and “shelter in place” during these military-style aerial spray operations. She cares because she knows these practices pollute homesteads and salmon streams alike.

Today I recall the dozens of rural residents south of Bend whose wells were poisoned after the County sprayed all the roads in their sub-division with a highly toxic herbicide. I shiver when I remember that this chemical, used to defoliate jungles during the Vietnam War, is now in their baby formula, soup and coffee!

These are real stories from real Beyond Toxics members. Our members want us to be strong advocates for laws that put environment at the heart of what we do in Oregon.

Volunteers make all the difference to inspire and create real power! So please join me and many others on the morning on Friday, March 8 – Beyond Toxics Lobby Day at the State Capitol – to present our case to state government for heart-centered justice in the land we love.

And, when we pass the Safe Public Places law, I promise we’ll all have a massive party to celebrate the vision of one small non-profit with really fabulous and caring members!

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director
Beyond Toxics

MORE about the Safe Public Places Act

Like what you read? Sign up to be kept informed of new blog posts as they are posted.

Sign Up for Action & News Email Alerts!

* required


“Not in OUR Back Yard!”

It is the annual Martin Luther King Celebration at South Eugene High School, and Beyond Toxics has been invited to speak.  It’s 9:00 in the morning, and I’m standing in front of the first of three groups that  I will reach out to today.  About 20 expressionless faces gawking up at me. Blank stares. I figured these South Eugene high school students are wondering “What is she going to teach us today I love pressure. I work well under pressure. My best sides come out under pressure. So there I went.

“Environmental Justice! What is Environmental Justice?” I asked. “Mother Earth!” one student shouted. “Justice for the Environment!” another one shouted. “Great start!” I answered, excited that they were going to learn  a new concept. Something to spice up their education.

So what did we do?  We started off with a short and sweet video put together by Beyond Toxics staffer John Jordan-Cascade. It takes you on  the environmental justice bus tour we held in West Eugene last April. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s definitely a “must see” project, involving communities in Eugene and how they’ve been disproportionately exposed to hazardous industrial air emissions. I loved seeing the students’ reactions while playing the video. The scene where students are being dropped off by a school bus looks like an everyday scene of students coming home from school–practically anywhere in the U.S. However, as the narrator, Executive Director Lisa Arkin, describes, kids in West Eugene sometimes encounter a “wall of chemicals” as they try to live normal lives in Eugene’s most concentrated collection of polluting factories. The high school students in the room seemed to lean forward with particular interest. After the video they noted that perhaps we take our air for granted. Who wants to live like that?

I was so proud of the South Eugene high school students today. They got to learn all about. They caught on to the issue of environmental justice, and how it relates to our communities in West Eugene a lot quicker than I thought they would. Teaching them about the term “environmental justice” was so rewarding for me that I found myself imaging a career in teaching. The students went from knowing nothing about the link between environment and injustices facing our community, to becoming social justice advocates and—going further: demanding that something be done for the communities “in their backyard.” Not in our backyard! they said. That made me feel happy, like a proud parent. Particularly knowing that I had planted the seeds of change for over 60 students.  I think Martin Luther King would have thought it was a really good  day for justice.

Refusing to be a corporate throw-away community

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director

Our ground-breaking work centers on bringing the voices of Oregonians to the forefront of policy reform. What do I mean by that? We help people who want to speak “ground-truthing” to power; in other words, using their real experiences to expose corporate financed and secret backroom deals that allow industry polluters to mislead and harm the public.

Two philanthropic organizations recently featured Beyond Toxics as exemplary examples of effective grassroots work. The Resist Foundation (Massachusetts), featured our unique work blending environmental justice with our fight to stop coal trains, and the McKenzie River Gathering Foundation (Oregon) shined a spotlight on our gutsy “get it done” style and list of many accomplishments.

You know, I get calls every week with accounts of what is happening when chemical trespass brings illness and property damage to the lives of every day Oregonians. With your steadfast support, Beyond Toxics can investigate, report and fight for better environmental laws that protect the environment and safeguard our health.

I want to share just a few stories, in addition to the ones I described in the Eugene Weekly. The sad part is the story, but the hopeful part is what Beyond Toxics did to make a positive difference. In each case, we didn’t just troubleshoot an individual problem; instead we elevated grassroots assistance into stronger human health and environmental protections.

Air Toxics, Asthma and School Kids: A teacher in a Lane County school district called to alert us that children were have trouble breathing during recess because of the ammonia and creosote fumes from a nearby factory. Beyond Toxics leapt into action, researched the relationships between air pollution and asthma and got the EPA to investigate the polluting industry for violations. The investigation is underway! We also got Union Pacific Railroad to clean up a huge hazardous waste dump!

Run-Away Power Fuels Coal Trains: As soon as Beyond Toxics heard that an unnamed multinational corporation had signed a secret MOU (“Memorandum of Understanding”) with the Port of Coos Bay to bring coal trains to the Willamette Valley and Oregon Coast, we teamed up with another non-profit to file an Oregon Public Records Request. We are seeking to reveal the identity of the coal companies and their coal export plan. While waiting for the courts to decide if we get access to those records, we have held rallies, teach-ins, marches, and written lots of editorials that gathered the public support to pass an anti-coal train resolution in Eugene.

Oct. 2011 Highway 36 Weed Pull Party

Pesticides on Highways: A woman in Marion County receiving chemo-therapy treatment for cancer begged for a reprieve from roadside spray so that she could protect her weakened immune system from toxic chemicals while driving from her home to her chemo appointments. Her plea went unanswered, so Beyond Toxics used her story and others just like it as the catalyst for our report on just how much pesticide is sprayed on Oregon’s roads and highways. As a result, ODOT has established a 25% chemical reduction goal for 2015.

Beyond Toxics doesn’t sit by and let bad practices and policies continue to harm folks! We take decisive action! Please join our team! We need your membership and involvement. Refuse to be a corporate throw-away by joining now and helping to make environmental health Oregon’s moral and practical standard.

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director
Beyond Toxics

See the news stories about our work in 2012.

Like what you read? Sign up to be kept informed of new blog posts as they are posted.

Sign Up for Action & News Email Alerts!

* required


Eugenians for Clean Air

Sometimes when I think about our Environmental Justice project, I think about the communities we are working with – West Eugene. And then I think to myself, is it really only West Eugene we are speaking about here? I mean, if you think about it, air certainly doesn’t stay within neighborhood boundaries. Air particulates don’t say to one another “Oh, we’d better stay here.” And yet, people tend to think they are safe if they don’t directly smell, see or experience air pollution.  Perhaps they feel “Well, I don’t live in West Eugene. Why should I care?

Say for instance you don’t live in West Eugene and you read the story in the paper about how your fellow Eugeneans are suffering from polluted air from train idling or industrial pollution. You take a sniff, and think, “I don’t live there.” And you move on to the sports section.

Or, let’s say you do live in West Eugene. You get days when it is just unbearable to go outside, open your windows, ride a bike or take a walk. But you have no choice because you’ve invested everything in your home and can’t afford to move to a different neighborhood.  And your children probably love their local school, you like your local church and your neighborhood association, and you bought your home with high hopes for a better life.  From what I learned from some West Eugene residents, underlying a sense of community is also a sense of being stuck without a way to change things (think about train idling!). That can feel frustrating.

The same goes with other environmental justice issues, such as wage theft in the Latino immigration community. When an undocumented worker for instance is not getting paid, it not only affects their family, but the state as well. We learned from Ramon Ramirez of PCUN last week that over 8000 wage claims were filed with Oregon’s state labor bureau, totaling $24.5 million in wage theft. According to a study by the Perryman Group, if all undocumented immigrants left the state, Oregon would lose over $3,000,000,000 in revenue from their purchasing power.

Air pollution issues aren’t as concrete as wage theft. However, it has become obvious that disproportionate exposures to air toxics also have a ripple effect through our community. We, as a community united in working for a sustainable and healthy Eugene, could benefit from taking steps to reduce how air pollution harms not only nearby neighbors but everyone in our entire Eugene airshed. We can learn a lot from Northwest Portland Activists such as Neighbors for Clean Air who hammered out a “good neighbor” agreement with ESCO to reduce pollution from the company’s foundries by an estimated 20 percent.  So let’s figure out a way to work together to help out our West Eugene community.  Just because we can’t see it or smell it doesn’t mean that it is not there.

Coal trains and beloved local spots

The coal industry wants us to believe that coal exports are inevitable, and that supporting continued mining and burning coal is our destiny. I would argue that a beautiful community and renewable energy future is our destiny, and obsolete coal is the doom and desperation of Big Dirty Coal.

Coal train tracks near River Road neighborhood

How will the proposed arrival of coal trains in Eugene and West Lane County impact our communities? I’ve thought of a few local landmarks that will be in the path of the coal train. I would enjoy reading what others think – what places are dear to you that will be impacted by four or more coal trains every day?

The Oregon Country Fair is a special spot that might suffer a tourism crisis if a coal trains passed within a few dozen yards. We’d see coal dust instead of fairy dust on those dancing, semi-naked bodies. The sound of screeching coal trains passing by eight times each day (round trip) would be unwanted percussion to the nightly jam sessions.

And sweet little Veneta. Last week, as I was having dinner at Our Daily Bread restaurant right off Highway 126, I chatted with another person about the coal trains. We both eyed the rail road tracks a few hundred yards from the restaurant. “I’m worried about what the noise and dust would do to our businesses here in Veneta,” the woman said. “A lot of people I know don’t want a coal train, but no one in Veneta has spoken out.”

One of my best friends and her husband routinely take their canoe out to Warren Slough, part of the Fern Ridge’s corridor of channels that lead through a very special wildlife viewing area. To get to the fishing areas south of the Reservoir, a canoe will have to pass directly under the rickety train trestle. Any coal dust spoiling a wetland, lake or stream would boost the acidity of the water and introduce heavy metals and pollutants that would, in turn, threaten aquatic life. As a consequence, the birds (and the people) that feed on the local fish would be harmed.

Trainsong Park, near the train tracks, is just one of many locations that would be impacted by coal train traffic

Here are just a few other landmarks that have meaning for me…

• Steward Ponds – a protected wetlands only .6mi from the coal train track.

• Peterson Community Center – site of many community events, classes and sporting activities. Barely .6 mi from the coal train track.

• Greenhill Humane Society – dogs and cats that already have some trauma in the their lives would be subjected to train whistles and the heavy rumble of the train day and night – only .5mi separates the animals from the tracks.

• The Fern Ridge Bike Trail actually crosses the train tracks, so that if you are out for a pleasant bike ride and some exercise, you can take in a lung-full of diesel particulate and coal dust too!

I agree with Eric de Place from the Sightline Institute who put the coal train issue so well, “I think you’re looking at a sort of degraded Northwest that doesn’t look like the kind of Northwest we’ve seen in the past. The region has not been a heavily fossil-fuel-dependent economy ever in its history … all of a sudden (it would will be) very much embedded in the economy of the coal industry.” A degraded Country Fair and Fern Ridge Reservoir is not the vision I have for my community.

What’s your vision? What places do you care about? Please share with me.

And please join us this Saturday to march in the Eugene Celebration Parade. Our theme is “Raise the Roof! King Coal and the Fossil Fools.” We need lots of folks participating to make a big impact. We’ve got costumes! Just show up!

Read more about how to find us!

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director
Beyond Toxics

Sign Up for Email Alerts!

* required


Email Marketing by VerticalResponse

Sighing with Delight…Over Honey!

Jen and Doug Hornaday's garden

Smooth and succulent.  Translucent colors, amber and smoke.  Made me pause and sigh with delight. Like a wine tasting, but without the alcohol.  I’m talking honey tasting!

This is the fresh, newly extracted honey from the local hives that are part of the Healthy Bees = Healthy Gardens project.  I had never known honey could taste so rich, so distinctive and delectable!  Each tasting was different based on the flowers from where the bees collect their nectar.

Our bee keeping friends, Jen and Doug Hornaday, stopped in to have us taste the fresh honey from each hive they are tending.  This is the project that asks folks to become a Friend of Honey Bees by pledging to not spray any pesticides or toxic garden chemicals (like Weed and Feed) in their yards.  When an entire city block of people sign up, they can become eligible to host a honey bee hive, tended to by Jen and Doug.  There are Pesticide-Free hives near Washington Park, Madison Meadow and near the Fairgrounds.  There is a transitional hive in the River Road area.

You too can taste each of the four honeys at our National Honey Bee Week events – Hideaway Bakery is hosting a Pizza Night on Wednesday, August 15, and Cozmic Pizza and salsa dance band Son Mela’o are featuring pizza and salsa on Saturday, August 18.

Come join us!  Taste the local pesticide-free honey and be amazed (and order a jar for yourself)!  Become a Friend of Healthy Bees, get your face painted, listen to the music, win the photo contest with your best bee or flower picture!  There will be lots of fun!  And eat the best local pizza around.

These fundraisers help us Beyond Toxics advance the Save Oregon’s Bees project, create more honey bee hive havens and advocate for No Spray parks, highways, forests, riparian areas and lots more! I hope to celebrate National Honey Bee Week with you!

Lisa Arkin, Beyond Toxics Executive Director


Victory for small (and honest) non-profits in the battle against the giant (and manipulative) coal industry!

Beyond Toxics and No Coal Eugene talk to Mayor Piercy at Coal Protest

Beyond Toxics and No Coal Eugene talk to Mayor Piercy at Coal Protest

In spring of this year, Beyond Toxics submitted a Public Records Request to the Port of Coos Bay to learn the details of plans to haul coal through Eugene for export to nations in the Far East? Remember that they demanded $22,000 to get what should be public information? If that wasn’t enough, the Port of Coos Bay tacked on a long list of intrusive questions, demanding the disclosure of our members’ names and addresses.

This week, a Coos Bay judge ruled that non-profits like Beyond Toxics and Sierra Club do not have to obey the demands of the coal industry by turning over the names of our members! The Port of Coos Bay’s excessive inquisition of small non-profits was thrown out of court!

This important victory is just one step along the legal path to give the public all the facts about hauling dirty coal through the Columbia River Gorge, the Willamette Valley, and out to the coast via downtown Eugene. Both the Oregon Sierra Club and Beyond Toxics filed records requests and were answered with back-breaking fees and aggressive demands. Sierra Club filed a claim that there is a pattern and practice of subjecting public requesters to invasive questioning, and pointed out it had also happened to Beyond Toxics. Both groups are awaiting the outcome of the case to proceed with our public records request.

The Port has been and continues to be secretive and dismissive of public inquiries on coal exports. It is highly doubtful that the Port or their coal partners will release the requested documents before the Eugene City Council meets to vote on the issue on September 10.

In a new twist, on July 9, the Port of Coos Bay asked the Eugene City Council to approve a resolution they (or probably their lawyers) wrote, specifically stating “Be it resolved by the City of Eugene that The City strongly supports the use of the Coos Bay rail line for the movement of freight in western Lane, western Douglas and Coos counties…” and furthermore that “The City will work with the Port and other regional and transportation stakeholders to identify and recruit additional opportunities for the development of rail…”

Why should residents of Eugene support the dirty, destructive and polluting coal industry? Why should we agree to foul our air and poison our lungs, and destroy climates by burning more fossil fuels?

Do you want to stand up to Dirty Coal? Then join us in the Eugene Celebration Parade where we will march as King Coal and the Fossil Fools! We need a big group!  To sign up, send an email to info@BeyondToxics.org. Let’s show Big Dirty Coal where Eugene stands when it comes to envisioning a clean energy world!

-Thanks for standing with us,

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director


Stopping coal: A renewed moral imperative

For children who live near the train yards, coal trains would be an added health risk burden

I want to be clear: I am not against trains (I often travel by passenger train)! I am, however, critical about using our rail system to haul coal to coastal ports and then load the coal and ship it off to Asian destinations. And justifiably so! Besides the significant safety issues posed by rail shipment of massive amounts of coal, we should consider the certainty of grave health problems we will have to address.

It is already true that health problems associated with polluted air occur in our community. Beyond Toxics has engaged with community health issues in the River Road, Trainsong and Bethel neighborhoods for many years. Recently we completed a community health survey in West Eugene. A striking pattern emerged. We found that 30% of the nearly 350 households we interviewed believe that at least one family member suffers from asthma. A 2006 study by State of Oregon did find a higher than expected number of lung cancers in this area. But more research needs to be done.

What do we know about the relationship between health hazards and the transportation of coal?

By the numbers
Let’s begin with words straight from a Burlington-Northern Santa Fe Rail Road research document they posted on their website. The document is called Coal Dust-Frequently Asked Questions and it addressed the question, How extensive is the coal dust problem?

“Since 2005, BNSF has been at the forefront of extensive research regarding the impacts of coal dust escaping from loaded coal cars … From these studies, BNSF has determined that … The amount of coal dust that escapes from Powder River Basin coal trains is surprisingly large. …BNSF has done studies indicating that from 500 lbs to a ton of coal can escape from a single loaded coal car. Other reports have indicated that as much as 3% of the coal loaded into a coal car can be lost in transit. In many areas, a thick layer of black coal dust can be observed along the railroad right of way and in between the tracks. … large amounts of coal dust accumulate rapidly…”

So let’s do the math. Multiplying the amount of coal projected to arrive at the Port of Coos Bay, which is 6 – 10 million tons per year, by BNSF’s suggested 3% product loss, this calculation suggests that coal trains would release as much as 300,000 tons of coal dust along its journey through Oregon. That is an immense amount of highly toxic coal dust every day of the year!

Due to the extreme weight of a coal train and its length of 125-150 cars, four to five locomotives are required to haul it. Therefore each train passing through Eugene has at least four times the emission pollution due to diesel particulate of a single-locomotive train.

Each train that comes through Eugene on the way to the coast must make a return trip over the same rail line. The communities along the tracks will get repeated exposure to the pollution, the noise and traffic jams for each coal train.

Health Issues
Remember that the health impacts from air pollution are from the two sources: coal dust and diesel particulate. The health impacts from both are similar enough that we can discuss them together as a related set of very debilitating health outcomes.

There’s strong evidence that diesel is a lot more poisonous than other types of particulate matter because emissions also contain toxic metals and carcinogenic hydrocarbons. The World Health Organization has declared diesel particulate to be a carcinogen. Over 40 studies have linked diesel exhaust to lung cancer, as well as cancers of the bladder and soft tissues. However, there are no federal standards specifically for diesel emissions.

Though it would be enough to raise our outrage if this issue just affected the areas closest to the train tracks, this is not a localized problem for people living in the Trainsong, or River Road neighborhoods. Pollution from coal trains would become a citywide hazard.

Extensive and costly studies of the health impacts to nearby communities has been done by the California Air Resources Board at many of California’s rail yards. The additional risk of cancer from breathing or absorbing toxic diesel particulate is increased to 25-100 times over the normal risk of getting cancer. Any resident living within 2 miles of the railyard is in a zone considered to be an unacceptable cancer risk (CA Air Resources Board).

What does that mean for us?

There are 27 schools within a 2-mile radius, 14 daycares and a number of senior living residences. A dramatic increase in coal train traffic through Eugene means significantly increased health risks for young children and adults alike!

The coal industry spends millions to sway Americans to give their support for more coal, euphemistically calling it “clean coal.

This is a public relations deception so, let’s not be fooled…the environmental and health costs necessary to mine it, transport it, burn it, and dispose of its waste make “clean coal” the equivalent of “happy heart attacks” or “friendly carcinogens.”

As writer Kathleen Dean Moore, a Distinguished Professor at Oregon State University, put it, “We have a moral obligation to avert future harms, so as to leave a world as rich in life and possibility as the world we inherited.”

Any way you look at it, coal should not be part of Oregon’s future. We have a duty to stand up and say, NO!

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director
Beyond Toxics

See the Stopping Coal in Oregon home page for more background on the issue

Sign Up for Email Alerts!

* required


Email Marketing by VerticalResponse

The economics of exporting coal through Oregon

Each coal train spews 1 pound of dust per mile travelled!The Port of Coos Bay is planning to build a terminal to export coal delivered via rail by trains that would snake through the Columbia Gorge and Willamette Valley before switching tracks at Eugene onto the Coos Bay Rail Link. Many other communities in the Northwest are threatened with severe health hazards (coal dust leaks and diesel fumes from the increase in train traffic) as coal gets transported through communities in Oregon and Washington by rail, barge, or shipped through the Columbia River Gorge, Portland and towns north.

In today’s world of experts, economists and politicians who intone with somber faces, ‘don’t worry about the risks, we know what’s best for you,’ I have a tendency to lead my arguments for environmental sanity with the infallible “common sense” of economics. Health concerns are always vitally important to me, of course! And frankly, how can we really expect (as the bumper stickers so bluntly summarize) to have jobs on a dead planet? But we don’t usually have to go there when we lead with economic issues. Invariably when I look at the economics of a proposal, it’s not long before the benefit to the very narrow interest of one or more industry–at the expense of the public interest–becomes plain as day. But that does not stop those narrow interests from raising the fear that if we don’t do exactly as they advise the economy will collapse even further and faster than it already has. If we can beat back polluting development proposals that do not meet the public’s best interest using their own measures of value: the dollar and jobs creation, it seems like the easiest path to success.

And so it is, we can all anticipate, with the issue of the endless parade of coal trains slated to rumble through Eugene’s rail yards on their way to Coos Bay for export to supposedly coal-hungry Asian destinations.

OK, so let’s start with economics, shall we?

A report from the Sightline Institute from August of last year shows the West Coast has been down this road before–and not with pretty results. It turns out there is a very significant cost to develop land for coal export. Costs that include severe poisoning of land and water that cannot be easily cleaned up or transformed to other uses should the world wake up to the fact that maybe burning the planet up with C02 is not such a good idea. (I’m really counting on this realization very soon!) And for how many potential jobs? The Sightline report clearly documents that based on our past experience: not many at all.

But if we leave it there, the whole story cannot completely unfold. As with any business decision, it always helps to ask, how else could property be developed to create jobs? In other words, what other developments could provide MORE jobs for a given job creation investment? Isn’t that the kind of common sense we should be applying to development—besides considering the cancer and asthma risks?

The answer from the report is rather sobering: A study at the Port of Baltimore, for example, found that “coal export supports just 0.11 jobs per 1,000 metric tons, as compared to 0.41 for other dry bulk commodities, 0.43 jobs for containerized cargo, and even 1.71 jobs for autos.”

So what happened with past plans for West Coast port projects to export coal? The Sightline report summarizes several past developments that did not consider carefully the use of taxpayer money in sound long-term investment in a stable commodity. The efforts of the Port of Portland in the 80s and the Port of Los Angeles in the 90s are both portraits of broken promises and complete failure. If you add in the very real risks to global climate change represented by the continued use of coal as an energy source, it seems clear that investing in a new infrastructure to ship coal oversees is a wild-eyed gamble not worthy of serious consideration.

In reviewing past port coal development failures in Portland, Oregon and Los Angeles the report concluded that, “The abandoned coal export facilities locked up millions of dollars in stranded investments and clean‐up expenses, not to mention years‐long missed opportunities for more durable economic development choices.” That’s not encouraging. Sadly, when a city or county considers new development, it rarely considers what happens if and when the market for that commodity or product dries up. With coal, the dirtiest fuel on the planet, the consequences are severe and costly!

John Jordan-Cascade,
Communications Manager for Beyond Toxics

See the Beyond Toxics Stopping Coal in Oregon home page for resources and more background on the issue.

Next week: more sobering news about the costs to human health from exporting coal.

See shocking raw footage of a coal train in transit (YouTube) and the trail of coal dust it leaves behind!

Sign Up for Email Alerts!

* required


Email Marketing by VerticalResponse