CHE-Alaska Teleconference: Recorded August 1, 2011

Click play to listen to the podcast. (There are no presentations to download for this call.)


About the call:

There is increasing pressure to develop Alaska’s coal for foreign export and domestic use, yet coal development poses serious threats to human health and the environment. The coal mining industry is the leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Inhaling coal dust also causes black lung disease in coal mine workers. Coal mining is also hazardous to people living nearby who have been found to have higher rates of cardiopulmonary disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), hypertension, lung disease and kidney disease. Communities near coal mines may also face health problems linked to water pollution, as exposed rock from rubble deposits and abandoned mines releases heavy metals and other pollutants that contaminate drinking water and surface water.

CHE-Alaska hosted this call for all to learn more about the health hazards of coal mining and community concerns about the proposed Wishbone Hill and Chuitna coal mines in Alaska.


Michele Prevost, MD, orthopedic surgeon and Palmer resident living within one mile of the proposed Wishbone Hill mine. Dr. Prevost graduated from medical school at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in 1993.  Before training in orthopedic surgery, completed at Wilford Hall Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas in 2000, she spent two years as a flight surgeon (a form of occupational health).  After a total of almost 25 years in the US Air Force, Dr. Prevost entered private practice as an orthopedic surgeon in Palmer, Alaska.  She became interested in the health impacts of coal after being told that a large open pit coal mine was going to be developed directly adjacent and upwind to her new neighborhood.

Jessica Dryden Winnestaffer, Environmental Stewardship Department Director, Chickaloon Village Traditional Council. Jessica has worked as a fisheries biologist for Chickaloon Village Traditional Council for 8 years conducting salmon research, stream restoration for fish passage, salmon population enhancement and project management.  Previously she worked for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game using sonar to count migrating salmon in the Yukon River and its tributaries.  Jessica was raised in Sutton, Alaska and continues to make this rural community her home.

Dennis Gann, Cook Inletkeeper. Dennis is a former commercial fisherman and tug vessel operator who worked escorting oil tankers through Prince William Sound. Prior to joining Inletkeeper in 2008, Dennis worked with the Kachemak Bay Conservation Society, the Cook Inlet Alliance and Cook Inletkeeper on various water quality and fisheries projects related to hard rock and coal mining. Dennis now leads Inletkeeper’s efforts to organize opposition to the Chuitna coal strip mine

Resources/ Links:

The Unhealthy Secrets of Coal, Dr Prevost (PDF)