Costs of Coal Exports, Part IV: Jason Reed of Maryland

Jason Reed lives near the Port of Baltimore's CSX coal export and processing facility.

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(This is the final installment in a four-part series profiling communities that could be seriously impacted by increased toxic air and water pollution resulting from the federal government’s financing of the export of Appalachian coal to Asia.)

This week we hear from Jason Reed, who lives near the Port of Baltimore’s CSX coal export and processing facility.

This is his story:

Jason Reed directs and manages the Filbert Community Garden in Curtis Bay, teaching students lessons in growing food and healthy eating, while also providing a nutritious food source for the community.

The garden where he works outside, typically nine hours a day, sits atop a hill about four blocks from the CSX coal export terminal. Reed can look down on a pile of coal the size of a football field, sitting uncovered. On windy days, he and his students have seen coal dust blowing off the largest coal pile. Daily, he hears the noise of the coal operation reverberate through the community, which is overburdened by the clanking and pollution of industrial activity.

The CSX coal export and processing facility is on the right in this satellite image. The Curtis Bay neighborhood is directly to the left of the facility. (Imagery © 2013 Google)

Reed sees expansion of coal transport activity at Curtis Bay as a real threat to the health of the community he cares about.

“Many of the students in my classes have asthma or have other health problems that make them vulnerable to air pollution,” he says. It’s an observation backed up by the statistics he gathers for grant reports.

“It doesn’t make sense for me to spend all day sweating over one acre of soil to provide healthy food for the community, but ignore the harmful effects of industrial pollution on acres and acres of adjacent land,” he says.

The Export-Import Bank never informed the public of its plans to finance more coal transport through Curtis Bay, so Reed is taking time from his garden work to spread the word himself.

Jason Reed, with his students at the community garden. (Filbert Community Garden)

“It distresses me that yet more industrial activity is proposed for the Curtis Bay neighborhood but the people who will be directly affected have not been informed or consulted,” he says.

“I encourage people to participate in public meetings and other processes designed to allow them to voice their concerns and stand up for their rights to clean air and a healthy community. Yet, the Export-Import Bank failed to give us any opportunity to participate in such a process.”

Jason Reed’s story was recorded and generously made available
by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

The potential impacts of coal exports on communities like Reed’s, which face a chain reaction of increased mining, rail traffic and port activity, remain woefully unaddressed by state and federal regulators.

In July, Earthjustice, representing Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Center for International Environmental Law, Friends of the Earth, Pacific Environment, Sierra Club, and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, filed a lawsuit opposing the federal government’s financing of the export of Appalachian coal to Asia.

The groups charge that the U.S. Export-Import Bank violated federal law by providing a $90 million loan guarantee without reviewing the environmental impacts as required under the National Environmental Policy Act. If successful, the case could also require the agency to conduct environmental review of future coal export projects it considers financing.

If you missed any of the previous installments, read in part one about Lorraine Ortega of Virginia’s story and Earthjustice’s work in challenging the U.S. Export-Import Bank’s approval of financial support for coal exports; Cumberland, MD resident Desiree Bullard’s story in part two; and Baltimore, MD resident Margaret Fox’s story in part three.

Sarah has a deep connection with international environmental law after living and working with communities in Nepal, Guatemala and South Africa. She works in the International program from the San Francisco, CA office.

The International Program partners with organizations and communities around the world to establish, strengthen, and enforce national and international legal protections for the environment and public health.