Dan Jaffe, a professor of atmospheric and environmental chemistry at the University of Washington-Bothell, released the findings of his coal dust study, which he funded through crowdfunding, on Monday. While this release packed a punchy headline, I cannot help but question the nature of the report.

Although I’m just a farmer, and not a scientist, I do understand the problems with opposition groups’ claims about coal dust –the lack of empirical evidence. It’s simple: if coal trains released the amount of coal dust the groups are suggesting, there would be mounds of coal dust on the sides of Washington’s train tracks. But, the reality remains, there’s not.

Coal trains are nothing new to our area. Washington has been transporting coal through our region for over a hundred years without any complain. In fact, the Northwest Clean Air Agency and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency have no record of coal dust complaints or related health or environmental hazards. That’s a long time to have no complaints.

Moreover, rail transportation is one of the greenest forms of transportation. And, though the transportation is not without fault, it is one of the safest and most efficient means to carry domestic products to ports. Private investments in coal exports will help expand our region’s rail infrastructure, allowing a greater number of all domestic products to reach the market place.

I don’t know Professor Jaffe, but I believe we should evaluate all the pros and cons of these proposed export facilities. This one particular study is about one specific issue, coal dust. But, this community discussion should be much larger than one commodity. I believe that we are running out of time to get this project started –it’s time to start moving forward.