Oakland City Council Votes to Ban Coal Exports
The Oakland City Council last week voted to approve an ordinance that would ban coal from being handled and stored in the City of Oakland, including a resolution to apply the ordinance to the proposed Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal. The council will hold a second vote on the ordinance on July 19.
A portion of the former Oakland Army Base is being developed as a bulk export facility, known as the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT). CCIG, the developer, has solicited a partnership with four Utah counties that could allow the state to export up to 10 million tons of coal from their mines each year. A Utah funding body approved $53 million to buy space at Oakland Bulk Terminal for these exports.
Opponents contended the deal was conducted behind the backs of the Oakland City Council and the port, both of which oppose coal as a commodity for shipping in Oakland. They also claim that the developer promised residents that the city-owned port would be coal free.
Supporters of the coal terminal say that boosting exports is just what the ailing U.S. coal industry needs. The developer also denies that the project in question is a coal terminal but a multi-commodity, bulk terminal. “That is what the city approved, vetted, and permitted in 2012 and 2013,” said Phil Tagami, president and CEO of California Capital & Investment Group, the master developer of the project. “Reports claiming anything to the contrary are simply not true.”
Those opposing the plan to export coal through Oakland have voiced concerns over how this decision will affect the community’s safety, the environment, and public health. According to a rail study, each open-top rail car of coal can lose up to one ton of dust between the mines and the port, resulting in the release of 60,000 pounds of toxic fine particulate matter in communities near the rails. They also fear that the terminal deal will stifle California’s commitment to cutting carbon pollution, especially as the state continues to suffer from extreme drought, forest fires, and other signs of climate disruption.
“Once the Council votes to confirm the ordinance to ban coal and petcoke on July 19, we can finally get back to making a plan for the Oakland Army Base that will create good jobs for our community without sacrificing our climate and our health,” said Brittany King of the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club.
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