News Source: 
Seattle Times
May 7, 2013

Dan Jaffe says he didn’t set out intending to go all rogue with his science.

“What happened is I was getting discouraged,” he says. “I was starting to wonder whether anyone would even be allowed to ask these basic questions. So I went outside the system.”

Jaffe is no anarchist, but an atmospheric chemist at the University of Washington.

For 20-plus years he’s followed the conventional path for doing science in this country, which is to apply for grants from the government or corporate-backed groups.

He’s been good at it, too, winning $7.2 million in two decades that his lab has used to publish more than 100 scientific papers on air pollution.

But he says something felt blocked in the pipeline when he sent out a proposal to study part of the biggest environmental controversy in the Northwest since the spotted owl: the coal trains.

“I got the sense through channels that nobody wanted to touch this,” Jaffe said from his lab at the UW-Bothell campus.

As he wrote on a website: “We need to know what will be the likely air quality and human health impacts from trains in our region before making decisions on shipping coal by rail. Unfortunately none of the federal, state or local agencies are able to fund or support this work for political reasons.”

Well, it’s too soon to judge if that last accusation is right. The feds and the state are only now weighing if they should study the air-quality effects of possibly tripling the number of loaded coal trains passing through Seattle from Montana. But it’s true they’re being lobbied hard not to.