Oregon Residents Sound the Alarm on Pending Coal Export Permit
More than 450 Oregon residents and a diverse group of local leaders flooded the steps of Oregon’s Capitol Wednesday morning to call on Governor Kitzhaber to deny Ambre Energy a dredging permit at the Port of Morrow.
Many community leaders and residents feel they can’t trust the Australian-based coal company which in 2011 lied to the community of Longview about its plans to expand from annual coal shipments of 5 million tons to as much as 80 million tons—15 times the amount claimed on its application.
Ambre’s dredging permit is set to be approved or denied by the Department of State Lands (DSL) by April 1. If approved, the Morrow Pacific project would be the first of five proposed coal export facilities to get the green light in the Northwest, opening the floodgates for the region to become a hub for dangerous fossil fuel exports.
The Morrow Pacific project is essentially unstudied, yet Ambre Energy and its partners are pushing public officials to ignore their due diligence and move forward with permit issuance without so much as a public review. Dr. Patrick O’Herron, M.D., a local surgeon practicing trauma and acute care surgery in Salem warns that Oregonians are being set up to be guinea pigs for a dangerous experiment if hundreds of coal trains are allowed to pass through local communities every month, blocking crucial intersections and delaying emergency response times.
“In trauma we speak of the golden hour. If a patient can be in the operating room within an hour of being injured they can survive pretty horrific injuries,” said Dr. O’Herron. “An hour from injury to the operating room doesn't leave much time for dilly dallying. Would you want to be bleeding to death from an injury in the back of ambulance waiting for a mile and a half long coal train to lumber by?”
Many have expressed concerns about the damages coal trains will cause to local communities still trying to recover from the recession. Anjala Ehelebe, a historian and Land Use co-Chair of the Woodlawn Neighborhood Association says that even through the few “rough decades” she and her disabled husband have loved the years they have lived in the fascinating Woodlawn neighborhood, but she now worries that coal trains will harm its recovery just as the town starts to flourish again.
“The original Town of Woodlawn first flourished in 1888 when a passenger railroad was extended into its center and a train station was built on a triangular block,” said Ehelebe. “Now, almost 130 years later, proposed mile-long trains with open railcars of coal may start choking our neighborhood's health and prosperity.”
If the proposed coal export projects along the Columbia River are permitted to move forward, coal barges are expected to double the barge traffic on the river, raising serious health, safety and general commerce concerns.
Bob Rees, President of Northwest Guides and Anglers Association in Tillamook, is a sixth-generation Oregonian, life-long sportsman, and a professional fishing guide for over 20 years. He points to the environmental degradation that occurs with immense carbon emissions associated with the transporting and burning of coal as a serious threat to the longevity of the Pacific Northwest fishing industry.
“Coal is a leading culprit in the further degradation of our sensitive environment,” says Rees. “Our Pacific Northwest salmon stocks need clean water and healthy ecosystems. Coal exports push these already sensitive fish populations in the wrong direction, further jeopardizing the tens of thousands of jobs that salmon currently support."
Echoing concerns about jobs, Marshall Runkel, a managing partner of GreenHome by EcoTech says that if we want to grow the economy, we’re going the wrong direction with exporting coal. “We don’t need to strip mine our country and ship our resources overseas to create jobs," says Runkel. “If our goal is jobs, then we should invest in energy efficiency which would create thousands of great jobs for insulators, electricians, plumbers and HVAC technicians. These industries are integral to the fabric of our local communities.”
Ambre Energy has proposed to ship 8.8 million tons of coal down the Columbia River every year. Coal would be mined in the Montana and Wyoming and shipped by rail to the Port of Morrow in Boardman, Oregon, and then transferred to barges and shipped down the Columbia River to Port Westward, where it would be transferred to ships and exported to Asia.
Visit EcoWatch’s COAL EXPORTS page for more related news on this topic.
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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