Editor’s Note: Should coal from Wyoming and Montana be transported through the Pacific Northwest and shipped to Asia? In our multimedia project, “Voices of Coal,” we bring you nine diverse perspectives from people across the region with a stake in that debate. Today’s installment: The rail yard neighbor.
Robbie Robinson has lived one block from one of the Northwest’s busiest rail yard for 16 years. She says her asthma and allergies worsened when she moved from a farm to Spokane, Wash. Robinson now uses a nebulizer and inhaler.
Coal trains coming from the Powder River Basin would pass by Robinson’s home. She says more trains likely mean more dust; she worries her breathing will suffer.
Idling trains release diesel particulate. That can aggravate respiratory problems. The Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency analyzed data from the BNSF Rail Yard and the Union Pacific Rail Yard in Stockton, Calif. The study found that people living within two miles of a rail yard have a slightly higher risk of lung cancer.
If all five export terminals are built, that could mean 47 more coal trains passing through Spokane each day.
Median income in Robinson’s neighborhood: $24,000. That’s half the median income of Spokane’s wealthier neighborhoods, away from the tracks.
The Spokane Regional Health District recently completed a health inequities report. It found that people with lower incomes tend to suffer from more chronic illnesses, like asthma.
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