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An Assessment of the Health and Safety Implications of Coal Transport through Oakland

2016 | Read the review.

Public Health Advisory Panel on Coal in Oakland: JUNE 13, 2016

A panel of public health experts considered the health and safety implications related to the potential transport, storage and handling of coal at the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT) proposed to be constructed on the former Oakland Army Base.

The panel reviewed evidence submitted to the Oakland City Council in conjunction with a public hearing held on September 21, 2015 and identified and considered additional sources including scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals, professional reports, press reports, and government data. The panel also conducted original calculations.

The panel was composed of numerous public health experts, including Paul English, PhD, MPH, Public Health Institute, public health epidemiologist, and Linda Rudolph, MD, MPH, Center for Climate Change and Health, Public Health Institute, former Health Officer and Director of Public Health, City of Berkeley (see the full list of panelists, below).

Read the review.

This review was conducted in the context of the Oakland City Council’s upcoming decision concerning the proposed transport, storage, and handling of coal, which will be informed by public health and safety considerations for current and future Oakland workers and residents. Based on its review, the panel offers the following summary of its findings:

  • Transporting coal by rail through the City of Oakland and transferring it through the OBOT facility will increase exposures to air pollutants with known adverse health effects including deaths.
  • There are no proven methods to eliminate or reduce the emission of these pollutants to a safe level.
  • There are inherent hazards in transporting and handling coal, including the risk of catastrophic explosion.
  • The combustion of coal exported from OBOT will contribute to global climate change, resulting in additional adverse health risks to Oakland residents.
  • Impacts of coal transport and handling will be greatest in West Oakland, a neighborhood already burdened by significant and inequitable environmental hazards.

Together, these findings span hundreds of sources that point in the same direction: If coal is transported, stored, and handled in Oakland, we can reasonably conclude that Oakland residents, in West Oakland in particular, will face increased exposure to several known hazards. It is highly likely that there will be increases in adverse health outcomes along with possible adverse safety outcomes.

Full list of panelists:

  • Charles M. Crane, MD, MPH, former Medical Director, TB Program, Contra Costa Health Services
  • Paul English, PhD, MPH, Public Health Institute, public health epidemiologist
  • Jonathan Heller, PhD, Co-Director and Co-Founder, Human Impact Partners
  • Janice Kirsch, MD, MPH, Medical oncologist and hematologist
  • Heather Kuiper, DrPH, MPH, public health consultant
  • Amy D. Kyle, PhD, MPH, School of Public Health, University of California Berkeley (institution for identification only)
  • Bart Ostro, PhD, former Chief of Air Pollution Epidemiology Section, California EPA, currently Research Faculty, Air Quality Research Center, UC Davis
  • Linda Rudolph, MD, MPH, Center for Climate Change and Health, Public Health Institute, former Health Officer and Director of Public Health, City of Berkeley
  • Seth Shonkoff, PhD, MPH, Executive Director of the Energy Science and Policy Institute, PSE Healthy Energy; Visiting Scholar, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley; and Affiliate, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Authors:

Charles M. Crane, Jonathan Heller, Janice Kirsch, Heather Kuiper, Amy D. Kyle, Bart Ostro, Seth Shonkoff, Linda Rudolph, Paul English