California Bans State Funding for Coal Ports
Less than 48 hours after the California Senate passed Senate Bill 1279, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law last week a bill to halt future state funding for any new project that would allow coal to be shipped or exported through California.
“When I introduced this measure, many people thought a coal-export terminal in West Oakland was a done deal,” said State Senator Loni Hancock, Democrat of Oakland, who sponsored the bill. “Today, people can breathe easier knowing that beginning in January no coal-related projects will receive state funding.”
Brown, in his signing message, praised state efforts to transition away from coal.
“In California, we’re divesting away from thermal coal in our state pensions, shifting to renewable energy and, last year, coal exports from California ports declined by more than one third, from 4.65 million to 2.96 million tons,” Brown said. “That’s a positive trend we need to build on.”
SB 1279 bars the California Transportation Commission from allocating state funds for new coal-related projects. Effective January 1, 2017, Hancock’s measure applies only to future projects and would not affect existing projects that plan to improve safety, rehabilitation, congestion reduction, modernization or maintenance.
Hancock introduced her bill in February after she learned that a proposed development project on city-owned land in Oakland would export up to 10 million tons of coal annually to China and other Asian countries. At present, California exports less than three-million tons annually.
Hancock said she felt compelled to introduce legislation to close loopholes in the law and ensure that other cities will not face similar problems in the future.
A survey undertaken last spring of her constituents by Hancock showed Oakland residents were overwhelmingly opposed to the plan to build a coal-export terminal in Oakland. The survey found that 92 percent of respondents oppose the pending Oakland coal terminal, and 96 percent of respondents do not believe public funding should be used to pay for the project.
Close to 86 percent agreed that the City of Oakland should pass an ordinance to prevent coal from being imported or exported onto city property. Only about six percent indicated that creating jobs is more important than environmental and health concerns and less than five percent said they no concerns about the proposed coal port project.