PORTLAND — Industry data is too scant to gauge the health effects of coal dust blowing off of trains headed from the Great Plains to export terminals along the West Coast, according to a review by Multnomah County’s health department.
County Chairman Jeff Cogen, a coal export opponent, requested the report on health effects, The Oregonian reported.
Local governments can’t stop the export projects, he said, but “the burden should be on the coal companies and the train companies to prove that this is not going to damage the health of our residents."
One in nine Multnomah County residents lives within a third of a mile of potential coal-train routes, the report said.
Three of the five terminals being considered for coal exports could send trains through Portland — one in Coos Bay and two along the Columbia River in Longview, Wash., and at a Port of St. Helens industrial park near Clatskanie.
The analysis looked at the impact if all three projects succeed, bringing up to 90 million tons of coal through the county on 16 to 19 trains each day. But some of the traffic might be on the Washington side of the river, and two of the terminals haven’t applied for permits.
The report says the federal government should do a regional study of export proposals, a call similar to one made by Gov. John Kitzhaber.
The dust contains harmful metals, including cadmium. But little is known about how it’s dispersed or the size of the particles.