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Board of Health unanimous on health impact assessment resolutions

April 8, 2016

Tacoma’s proposed methanol plant included in resolutions

Resolutions make public health considerations a priority for projects with the potential to affect health and the environment. Vote shows board as champions of public health in Pierce County and beyond.

TACOMA, Wash. – In unanimous votes, Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health members passed three resolutions with sweeping public health implications at their April 6 regular meeting. All three ask that projects, regulations, policies, or plans with the potential to affect public health and the environment include health impact assessments (HIA). An HIA is a process that helps evaluate potential health effects.

The board addressed the proposed Northwest Innovations Works methanol plant in the Tacoma Tideflats in the first resolution. They want Tacoma city officials to require an HIA as part of the environmental impact statement (EIS) to ensure the project has no unintended consequences on the environment and public health. The EIS, which is a state requirement for projects with significant environmental impacts, may not adequately address or evaluate these issues.

“Once again our board of Health has shown great leadership in public health policy,” said Director of Health Anthony L-T Chen, MD, MPH. “In passing these important resolutions, they made passionate statements about health equity and health in all policies, which demonstrates a commitment to make public health part of a broader discussion,” Chen said.

The other two resolutions have a broader reach. The second recommends Pierce County and all cities and towns in the county screen projects, regulations, policies and plans for potential health impacts and require an HIA whenever an environmental impact statement is required or screening finds likely significant health impacts.

With the third resolution, board members want state lawmakers to change the law to make public health a consideration for projects with anticipated significant health impacts statewide. The board wants the legislature to amend the State Environmental Policy Act to include public health during the evaluation phase of a project, regulation, policy, or plan. It would require screening for potential health impacts and require an HIA whenever an environmental impact statement is required, or screening finds likely significant health impacts.

“A health impact assessment could take time, but that investment is worth the effort if it means greater public engagement in the planning process and assurances of little to no adverse public health impacts,” said Board of Health Vice Chair Rick Talbert.

The board’s passage of the resolutions came during National Public Health Week. Greater inclusion of policymakers at all levels to promote a stronger national public health infrastructure is one goal the annual event hopes to accomplish. Policies like the board passed this week support changes within our public health system to realize the ultimate goal to make the U.S. the healthiest nation in one generation.

Contact
Edie Jeffers, Communications Manager
(253) 798-2853, (253) 405-6822 (cell/text), ejeffers@tpchd.org
Steve Metcalf, Communications Specialist
(253) 798-6540, (253) 345-8238, (cell/text), smetcalf@tpchd.org

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