September 29, 2016

Search Results for: oakland coal

Community groups dismiss Oakland coal exports case while working with City to exclude coal from project

The redevelopment of the waterfront in Oakland is generating new controversy over a proposed coal export terminal.

The redevelopment of the waterfront in Oakland is generating new controversy over a proposed coal export terminal.

On November 25th, Earthjustice, representing Communities for a Better Environment, the Sierra Club, San Francisco Baykeeper and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, dismissed its case in Alameda County Superior Court against the City of Oakland and a group of developers led by Prologis CCIG Oakland Global LLC, challenging the City’s failure to conduct environmental review for the developers’ proposal to build California’s largest coal export terminal on the Oakland waterfront.

This dismissal comes after the City disclosed new information during the litigation process about its role in the terminal development and its expected process for evaluating and approving construction on the proposed terminal. The dismissal is without prejudice, preserves the groups’ right to re-file at a later date.

As the City continues its review of the health and safety effects of the proposed coal export terminal, and exercises its oversight over the proposed coal terminal, these community client groups will continue advocacy work to fight the unchecked development of a coal export terminal on the Oakland waterfront. Based on statements made by the City in the litigation, the groups wish to allow the City to proceed with its decision making in good-faith while keeping open the possibility for future legal action should it become necessary.

Statement from Earthjustice Attorney Irene Gutierrez, attorney for petitioners: “We sued to protect the rights of Oakland residents to access information, detailing how developing California’s largest coal terminal on the Oakland waterfront would affect their health and environment.  We believe it is in the best interest of our community client groups to continue advocacy efforts and work in good-faith with city staff to achieve a mutually acceptable solution. We remain vigilant in supporting this community’s efforts to safeguard itself from dirty coal and trust that the City of Oakland’s leaders will exercise oversight over the proposed development, including whether coal is or is not part of the project.”

In papers filed by the City of Oakland during the litigation, its lawyers stated that:

  • Developer Prologis CCIG Oakland Global had pursued project funding from the Utah counties “without City support, knowledge or involvement.”  (City of Oakland Demurrer at p. 2)(emphasis in original.)
  • “[T]he City has not taken an official position on whether Real Parties’ project approvals entitle them to transport coal.”  (City of Oakland Demurrer at p. 3.)
  • “The City is evaluating discretionary decisions it may take in the future with respect to Real Parties’ project (e.g., additional permit requirements), or which will apply to Real Parties’ project (e.g. new legislation that would apply to the project), and the scope of additional environmental review, if any, that it may require in connection with any such decision(s), consistent with its existing contractual obligations.”  (City of Oakland Demurrer at p. 9, fn8.)

These statements provided Petitioners with new information about the City’s role to date with the coal export terminal, and its expectations for further oversight of the project.  The City is currently assessing the health and safety concerns generated by the proposed coal export terminal, with further action expected by February 2016.

Background: After years of assurances that coal would not be transported through a bulk terminal on the former Oakland Army Base, in April 2015, community members learned that the project developers had cut a secret funding deal with four Utah counties that would bring coal into Oakland. In exchange for $53 million in project funding, the developers promised the Utah counties shipping rights to at least 49 percent of the bulk terminal’s 9–10 million ton annual shipping capacity, which would make the terminal California’s largest coal export terminal.  On October 2, 2015, community groups sued the City and developers for the City’s failure to conduct the environmental review of the proposed coal terminal required by the California Environmental Quality Act.

Article adapted from post by Earthjustice. Read more about this issue at our website.

Community and environmental groups challenge proposed Oakland coal-export terminal—California law requires environmental review of coal impacts

A coal-export terminal.

A coal-export terminal on the Oakland waterfront would have major health and safety impacts on the local community and would mean massive emissions of climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases.

Today, Earthjustice, on behalf of Communities for a Better Environment, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, the Sierra Club, and San Francisco Baykeeper, filed a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) action in Alameda County Superior Court to challenge the proposal to export Utah coal out of Oakland’s proposed bulk terminal at the former Oakland Army Base.  The project, known as the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal, is being built by a group of developers led by Prologis CCIG Oakland Global LLC. Contrary to the fundamental requirements of CEQA, the environmental review for the project failed to include any discussion or analysis of the impacts of transporting, handling, or exporting coal from Oakland on surrounding neighborhoods or the environment. This is particularly problematic given the project’s disproportionate impact on Oakland’s most vulnerable communities of color.

After years of assurances that coal would not be transported through the bulk terminal, in April 2015, community members learned that the developers had secretly cut a funding deal with four Utah counties that would bring coal into Oakland. In exchange for $53 million in project funding, the developers promised the Utah counties shipping rights to at least 49% of the bulk terminal’s 9-10-million-ton annual shipping capacity. Utah officials have stated that they intend to use this capacity to export coal to overseas markets. This development followed a number of public statements by CCIG’s President and CEO, Phil Tagami, that the company had “no interest or involvement in the pursuit of coal-related operations at the former Oakland Army Base.”

“We have been working for many years to combat the environmental harms that our neighborhoods were subjected to through neglectful and discriminatory policies that disproportionately affected our community,” said West Oakland resident Karin Mac Donald. “Our vision for the future is a safe and healthy environment and dirty coal is certainly not part of that. Phil Tagami needs to follow the law, stick to his promises, and listen to the community that would be impacted by coal shipments.”

The Oakland City Council held a hearing on September 21st, 2015, to gather evidence on the health and safety issues associated with the proposed coal export facility. At the end of the six-hour hearing, the Council adopted a resolution to review the information and consider potential action before December 8th, 2015.

“Shipping coal through the bulk terminal would be devastating to the health of the West Oakland community and many other communities along the rail line,” said Irene Gutierrez, attorney at Earthjustice. “The California Environmental Quality Act was meant to protect the public from being kept in the dark about what this new coal project means for their health, safety and environment.  We seek to hold the City to its duties to inform and protect the public.”

“The proposal to ship coal out of Oakland would not only impact our air quality, but our water as well,” George Torgun, Managing Attorney at San Francisco Baykeeper. “Coal dust released by open train cars will pollute our Bay, and the process of suppressing coal dust is itself highly water-intensive. As we head into our fourth straight year of drought conditions here in California, we can’t afford to be wasting water on spraying down tons of dirty coal to minimize dangerous coal dust. For the sake of our water and the health of our communities, we must keep coal out of Oakland.”

“Tons of coal dust every week all year round is a dangerous threat to the lungs and well-being of Oakland residents who are already disproportionately impacted by air pollution,” said Michael Kaufman, a member of Communities for a Better Environment. “After working for decades to improve the air we won’t stand for this assault.”

“We support bringing jobs to Oakland through the Army Base Redevelopment project and the proposed bulk terminal, but not at the expense of the health of West Oakland communities and our global climate,” said Jess Dervin-Ackerman, Conservation Manager with the Sierra Club’s Bay Chapter. “We will continue to work closely with the Oakland City Council and Mayor Schaaf to encourage the project’s backers to move forward with the plan as originally proposed, without dirty coal exports. This case will ensure that the environmental impacts of this project are fully considered.”

“Coal has no place in the vision for a vibrant and thriving local economy that we all have for Oakland, especially for our most vulnerable residents,” said Miya Yoshitani, Executive Director of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network. “We fully support the Army Base Redevelopment project and believe it is an opportunity to create jobs and stabilize our neighborhoods, and last century dirty coal exports keep us from realizing that important goal.”

Communities for a Better Environment, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Sierra Club, and San Francisco Baykeeper are represented by Irene Gutierrez and Stacey Geis at Earthjustice, and the Sierra Club is represented by Jessica Yarnall Loarie.

Come to a health and safety hearing to block Oakland coal exports

Youth leaders from West Oakland at a rally against coal in Oakland.

Youth leaders from West Oakland at a rally against coal in Oakland.

It’s been nearly five months since we first learned about a dirty backroom deal to export Utah coal through a terminal under development on the West Oakland waterfront. Since then, we’ve learned a lot about the plan. The coal would be transported on long, dusty trains from Utah, compromising air and water quality all along the route. From Oakland, the coal would be shipped abroad to be burned, adding to the global climate crisis. But now there’s some good news: we’ve learned how we can stop this dirty project. Here’s the plan:

On Monday, September 21st, the Oakland City Council will hold a hearing on the impacts of the coal-export project on public health and safety. If we can convince the City Council of the magnitude of the threat, they can keep coal out. We need a big turnout to tell City leaders why letting coal come through the Bay Area would be a disaster for the local economy, health and safety, and the climate.

This is our big chance to stop this dirty deal. RSVP today to join us!

WHAT: Stand up for a coal-free Oakland at the City Council’s health and safety hearing
WHEN: Monday, September 21, 3:30 pm
WHERE: Oakland City Hall, 3rd floor Council Chambers
RSVP HERE

Many thousands of Bay Area residents have signed petitions, made phone calls, and attended rallies to express their outrage that a development project on public land using public dollars would be used to prop up the dying coal industry. And our message is getting through! Now we need to put the final nail in the coffin by showing the City Council that the Bay Area wants nothing to do with coal.

We’ve come so far in our work to improve the Bay Area’s air quality and combat climate disruption. Let’s not let the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet derail that progress.

So mark your calendar for September 21!

Oakland City Council unanimously supports ban on coal exports

The UNITE HERE Local 2850 drum corps set the beat for the rally outside City Hall before the hearing. Photo by Brooke Anderson.

The UNITE HERE Local 2850 drum corps set the beat for the rally outside City Hall before the hearing. Photo by Brooke Anderson.

On Monday, June 26th, the Oakland City Council finally acted on its promise to protect the Bay Area by blocking coal exports through Oakland. Following the release of studies on the devastating public health and safety impacts of coal, the Council voted unanimously in favor of an ordinance prohibiting the storage and handling of coal and petroleum coke (a.k.a. petcoke, a byproduct of oil refining) in Oakland.

The ordinance, co-sponsored by Councilmember Dan Kalb and Mayor Libby Schaaf, is paired with a resolution applying the coal ban to the export terminal planned for the Oakland army base redevelopment project — thereby blocking a dirty deal that would have made Oakland into the West Coast’s largest coal exporter (read more at the bottom of this article).

Before the ordinance becomes law, it needs to get council approval one more time at a second reading on July 19. You can help us clear this final hurdle: Send a message to the City Council thanking them for standing up for our health and safety, and asking them to approve the ordinance at the July 19 meeting.

Then, RSVP to join us for the second and final City Council vote on blocking coal:

DATE: Tue, Jul 19, 2016
TIME: 5:00 pm
LOCATION: City Council Chambers, Third Floor, Oakland City Hall, 1 Frank H Ogawa Plaza
RSVP here!

Once passed, the ordinance will effectively block the deal to ship up to 10 million tons of Utah coal annually through a new export terminal planned for the Oakland army base redevelopment — a taxpayer-funded project located on public land. The coal would travel to the Bay Area in mile-long open-top rail cars, spreading toxic coal dust through countless communities along the way. West Oakland residents, who already suffer disproportionately from bad air quality, would be hit hardest by health impacts including asthma, pneumonia, emphysema and heart disease.

Anti-coal speakers outnumbered the pro-coal side 10-1.

Anti-coal speakers outnumbered the pro-coal side 10-1.

By blocking this coal-export project, we’ll be strengthening the “thin green line” being drawn down the West Coast by communities like ours. The goal is a continent-wide blockade of coal exports, and the stakes are no less than the future of our planet.  Because the coal industry is on the rocks — with coal-fired power plants closing across the country and demand falling worldwide — blocking this export deal means the coal will likely stay in the ground. That is the equivalent of wiping out the carbon emissions of seven average power plants.

After the June 26th City Council vote, local Sierra Club organizer Brittany King said: “Once the Council votes to confirm the ordinance to ban coal and petcoke on July 19th, 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. It’s time for Phil Tagami and Jerry Bridges to listen to the people of Oakland, who stood up today and said very clearly: there will be no coal in Oakland.”

This victory was only possible because of the dedicated advocacy of Bay Area residents, workers, healthcare professionals, small businesses, and elected officials over 15 months. Thank you for all you’ve done to help keep dirty coal in the ground!

Background:

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, promised not include coal as a commodity handled by the terminal, but now they have 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. This deal is being conducted behind the backs of the Oakland City Council and the Port, both of oppose coal as a commodity for shipping in Oakland. Additionally, the developer promised residents that the city-owned port would be coal free. While the Mayor, members of the council and residents have demanded a stop to these talks, the developer has yet to abandon the plans.

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 national train company, 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. Additionally, this deal will stifle California’s strong commitment to cutting carbon pollution, especially as the state continues to suffer from extreme drought, forest fires, and other signs of climate disruption.

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On June 27th, Oakland could close the door on coal

Youth leaders from West Oakland at a July, 2015 rally against coal exports.

Youth leaders from West Oakland at a July, 2015 rally against coal exports.

It’s been nearly 15 months since we first learned about a backroom deal to turn Oakland into the West Coast’s biggest coal exporter. Now, the nightmare could finally be coming to an end. On Monday, June 27th, the Oakland City Council will hold a special hearing to unveil an ordinance designed to block coal and petroleum coke (petcoke) exports through Oakland. We need to turn out in force to show the council that if they stand up to the special interests pushing this dirty deal, we will have their backs.

Please join us on June 27th and help hold the council members to their promise to protect us all from coal exports. Here are the details:

WHAT: Oakland City Council hearing of an ordinance addressing coal exports
WHEN: Monday, June 27th, 4:30 pm (hearing begins at 5 pm)
WHERE: City Council Chambers, 3rd floor of City Hall, 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, CA 94612
RSVP Here!


We haven’t seen the language of the ordinance yet, but we have reason to hope that it will effectively block the deal to ship up to 10 million tons of Utah coal annually through a new export terminal planned for the Oakland Army Base redevelopment — a taxpayer-funded project located on public land. The coal would travel to the Bay Area in mile-long open-top rail cars, spreading toxic coal dust through countless communities along the way. West Oakland residents, who already suffer disproportionately from bad air quality,1 would be hit hardest by health impacts including asthma, pneumonia,2 emphysema and heart disease.3

Please join us on the 27th and help ensure that Oakland’s elected officials prioritize public health and safety above the profits of Utah’s coal industry and private developers.

If we can stop this coal-export project, we’ll be strengthening the “thin green line” being drawn down the West Coast by communities like ours. The goal is a continent-wide blockade of coal exports, and the stakes are no less than the future of our planet. If we can stop this proposal to export 10 million tons of coal to overseas markets each year, it will be the equivalent of wiping out the carbon emissions of seven average power plants.4

June 27th could be the day we close the door on coal for good — but we can’t underestimate the persuasive power of the special interests who stand to benefit financially from the coal-export deal. They’ll be sure to turn out in force, so we need you to show up, too. Please RSVP today to let us know we can count on you on the 27th.

 

[1] Rubenstein, Grace. “Air Pollution Controversy Swirls Around Oakland Army Base Development | News Fix | KQED News.” KQED News. May 6, 2014. http://ww2.kqed.org/news/air-pollution-dispute-west-oakland-army-base.

[2] Brook, Robert, et al, “Particulate Matter Air Pollution and Cardiovascular Disease. An Update to the Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association.” May 9, 2010. Accessed February 10, 2016. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2010/05/10/CIR.b013e3181dbece1.

[3] Landen, Deborah D., James T. Wassell, Linda Mcwilliams, and Ami Patel, et al. “Coal Dust Exposure and Mortality from Ischemic Heart Disease among a Cohort of U.S. Coal Miners.” Am. J. Ind. Med. American Journal of Industrial Medicine 54, no. 10 (2011): 727-33



[4] Technical Memorandum Air Quality, Climate Change, And Environmental Justice Issues From Oakland Trade And Global Logistics Center. Sustainable Systems Research, LLC, 2015.

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Oakland City Council moves forward with process to ban coal exports — Critical hearing on June 27

Oakland residents have been protesting the coal-export proposal for over a year. Here, Katy Polony of No Coal in Oakland carries the message to Oakland City Hall last July. Photo by Brooke Anderson.

Oakland residents have been protesting the coal-export proposal for over a year. Here, Katy Polony of No Coal in Oakland carries the message to Oakland City Hall last July. Photo by Brooke Anderson.

Early in May, the Oakland City Council took an important step toward banning coal exports from the redeveloped Oakland Army Base. The Council voted unanimously to approve a contract with consulting firm ESA to prepare a report on the health and safety impacts of coal exports. Signing a contract now means that it is still possible to get a final decision on this matter before the Council’s upcoming summer recess.

Now that the City has finalized this contract, the consultant can begin the process of evaluating the thousands of pages of evidence pointing to the significant health and safety impacts of coal exports, submitted by experts and advocates including the Sierra Club. From increased asthma rates to decreased emergency vehicle access, the risks of exporting coal through Oakland are grave. We expect ESA’s findings to concur.

The City Council was originally scheduled to approve a contract with ESA on February 16th that would have pushed the timeline well into the fall and cost the city nearly $250,000. Prior to the February council meeting, Mayor Libby Schaaf released a statement urging the council to postpone contracting with ESA to evaluate more options.

The city ultimately decided to stay with ESA, while scaling down its scope of work. In a recent statement, the mayor said, “The revised contract with ESA is more financially responsible and appropriately limits their role to validating evidence and assisting the City in its job to determine whether there is ‘substantial evidence’ to find ‘substantial endangerment’ of health and safety. The revised scope clarifies that this determination belongs to the City and not a contractor.”

Hearing set for June 27

The consultant, ESA, has been given a mid-June deadline to evaluate evidence so that an initial consideration by the Council of any health and safety regulations can be heard prior to July. Acting on a recommendation from council member Rebecca Kaplan, the full council voted unanimously to take up the issue on June 27th at a special City Council meeting.

Setting June 27th for a hearing of findings is a step in the right direction to getting the city to enact a ban on coal exports, as any action the city takes to enact such a ban will require two readings of an ordinance. A first reading in June gives the council enough time to have a second reading and final vote in July, before council goes on break for summer recess.

Blocking additional fossil fuels

On May 9th, the City Council held a special public hearing to receive information, testimony, and evidence regarding the public health and  safety impacts of transportation, transloading, handling, and export of fuel oil, gasoline, and crude oil in and through the City of Oakland. Although there are no current plans to ship these products through Oakland, both fuel oil and gasoline were listed among the potential commodities that could be shipped through the terminal at the army base redevelopment.

In 2014, the city passed a resolution opposing the transportation of hazardous fossil fuel materials, including crude oil, coal, and petroleum coke, through the City Of Oakland. As a follow-up to that resolution, ESA will consider the health and safety impacts of these additional fossil fuels in their report on coal.

If all goes as planned, the city will be able to introduce and pass an ordinance banning all fossils fuel exports, though the council has made it clear that coal is the top priority. We will be watching to make sure the council acts on their resolution to ban these dirty and dangerous products before they go on summer break. After more than a year of waiting, the people of Oakland deserve to know where their council members stand on this important issue before casting their votes in November.

To get involved in this campaign, contact Brittany King at (510)848-0800 or brittany.king@sierraclub.org.

– Brittany King

Updates on the campaign to stop coal exports through Oakland

Activists rally against coal outside Oakland City Hall

Activists rally against coal outside Oakland City Hall

The developers of an export terminal on City-owned land on the Oakland waterfront have solicited a partnership with four Utah counties to export up to ten million tons of coal through Oakland each year. The plan would make Oakland the largest coal-export facility on the West Coast, and would increase national coal exports by a whopping 19 percent. It would mean long, dusty coal trains coming through our communities, compromising public health, worker safety, and climate security. Here’s an update on our campaign to stop the dirty deal.

Poll reveals over 75% of Oakland voters oppose coal exports

The Sierra Club recently released the results of a new survey of Oakland voters’ attitudes toward the coal-export proposal. The survey, which was conducted by the California-based polling firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, found overwhelming public opposition to transporting coal by rail through Oakland to this terminal for export overseas.

After hearing a brief and balanced debate on the issue — including a strong argument from supporters — more than three-quarters of Oakland voters (76%) say they oppose the coal-export proposal. This includes 57% who say they are “strongly” opposed. This suggests the more that people hear about the proposal, the more they agree it is an unnecessary and risky part of an otherwise important plan to build a new export terminal in West Oakland.

The survey also suggests that Oakland City Councilmembers who oppose this proposal will enjoy greater support from voters. By a nearly three-to-one margin, voters say they would be more likely to vote for a member of the city council who opposed the coal-export proposal.

Bay Chapter organizer Brittany King summed up the survey results: “This poll clearly demonstrates what we’ve learned from our conversations on the ground with Oakland residents: they do not want dirty coal.”

So where does the coal-export proposal stand?

The Oakland City Council has the authority to block coal exports at the army base redevelopment given the serious health and safety risks it poses. On February 16th, the city council was scheduled to approve spending nearly $250,000 to hire consultants from Environmental Science Associates (ESA) to review information gathered at a September hearing on public health and safety impacts of coal exports, and produce findings. However, prior to the February council meeting, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf released a statement urging the council to postpone contracting with ESA in order to evaluate more options. She also stated that she “remains strongly opposed to the transport of coal and crude oil through our city and committed to upholding our city policy.” The item was pulled from the agenda with council agreeing to revisit the coal issue in April.

State & national leaders weigh in

In late February, State Senator Loni Hancock introduced four bills to restrict the export and transportation of coal in California. However, Senator Hancock made it clear that the bills are not retroactive (they couldn’t stop coal exports from the project in question) and urged the Oakland City Council to uses its authority to protect its community and prohibit coal exports from the army base redevelopment.

Van Jones, a political commentator for CNN and the president and founder of the “Green For All” campaign, shared his opposition to the proposal in the San Francisco Chronicle, stating that “coal is a dying industry, and it shouldn’t be allowed to take the people of West Oakland down with it.”

City must act soon

While the city council continues to delay action, the developers and coal interests are working behind the scenes to get the project started. Earlier this month, the Utah state legislature passed a bill that invests 53 million taxpayer dollars in the project. This Utah government funding puts the project developers one step closer to being able to push this risky deal through.

The Oakland City Council must act quickly and use their legal authority to ban coal exports, making it clear that they stand with the growing list of elected officials, community leaders, and the 76% of Oakland voters who oppose coal exports in Oakland.

Rather than invest in dirty fuels, Oakland should invest in clean-energy solutions that will bring good jobs, cleaner air and water, and a more secure economic future to the people of Oakland.

Want to get involved? Contact brittany.king@sierraclub.org or (510)848-0800. Learn more about this campaign on our website.

Brittany King

New poll reveals that over 75 percent of Oakland voters oppose coal-export proposal

Faith leaders of all denominations lined up against Oakland coal exports.

Faith leaders of all denominations lined up against Oakland coal exports.

Yesterday evening, leaders from diverse faith communities came together to oppose the proposal to export coal through Oakland, and to call on the Oakland City Council to protect their communities by standing up to out of state coal companies. At the faith leaders’ rally, which was followed by a prayer vigil, the Sierra Club also released a new poll that found that 76 percent of Oakland voters oppose the coal export proposal.

The poll found that 47 percent of Oakland voters have heard about the proposal to transport coal through their city, and these voters are decidedly against it. After hearing arguments from both sides, an overwhelming 76 percent of voters say they oppose the proposal. This includes a majority (57%) who oppose it “strongly.” The poll suggests that this issue will be important to 2016 voters; 48 percent of respondents say they would be more likely to vote for a council member who opposes coal, while just 17 percent would be less likely.

Nearly half of Oakland voters (47%) reported having already heard or read something about the issue of coal exports, and these voters are decidedly against the proposal (70% oppose vs. 14% support). The intensity of their opposition is remarkable, with 55% saying they "strongly oppose" the proposal to transport coal by rail through Oakland.

Nearly half of Oakland voters (47%) reported having already heard or read something about the issue of coal exports, and these voters are decidedly against the proposal (70% oppose vs. 14% support). The intensity of their opposition is remarkable, with 55% saying they “strongly oppose” the proposal to transport coal by rail through Oakland.

“No community, rich or poor, should endure the effects of coal. But the environmental inequity of the coal terminal proposal cannot be disregarded,” said Rev. Kenneth Chambers, pastor of West Side Missionary Baptist Church in Oakland. “West Oakland already bears a disproportionate burden of pollution, of toxic contamination from diesel exhaust spewing from thruways crisscrossing through the community. Life expectancy of West Oakland residents is far below the life expectancy of residents in the Oakland hills, and West Oakland tenants are twice as likely to visit emergency rooms for asthma as the rest of Alameda County. The West Oakland community cannot afford to have any more pollution dumped on us. We ask the City Council to stand with us over polluters and profits.”

By nearly a three-to-one margin, voters in Oakland say they would be more likely to vote for a member of the City Council who opposed the proposal to transport coal by rail through the city for export.

By nearly a three-to-one margin, voters in Oakland say they would be more likely to vote for a member of the City Council who opposed the proposal to transport coal by rail through the city for export.

Faith leaders have been deeply engaged in the campaign to stop coal exports in Oakland. Congregations throughout Oakland have hosted teach-ins on the health, safety and climate impacts of coal. In addition to local Oakland clergy, prominent Bay Area faith leaders from the Jewish, Roman Catholic and Episcopal communities including the Executive Director of the Northern California Board of Rabbis, Rabbi Marv Goodman, former President of the Jesuit School of Theology, Thomas Massaro, and Episcopal Bishop Marc Andrus, have all spoken out against coal and signed onto a letter drafted by California Interfaith Power & Light, urging the City Council to ban coal exports.

“As a resident of West Oakland, a person with respiratory challenges and a faith leader, I am profoundly concerned about the health and environmental impacts of transporting coal through our city,” said Archdeacon of the diocese of California, Carolyn Bolton. “I strongly oppose the development of a coal terminal in our already vulnerable and highly impacted community.”

“Oakland should not be involved in shipping coal overseas, since this fossil fuel is the major contributor to climate change,” said Margaret Rossoff of the Sunflower Alliance. “Coal needs to be left in the ground and replaced with renewable resources.”

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A one-month-old air filter shows how dirty Oakland’s air is already.

“This poll clearly demonstrates what we’ve learned from our conversations on the ground with Oaklanders,” said Brittany King of the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Oakland residents do not want dirty coal exports in their city. The City Council has the legal authority to ban coal due to the health and safety risk this dangerous commodity poses to Oakland residents. It’s time for our elected leaders to make it clear that they stand with the 76% of Oakland voters who oppose coal exports in Oakland.

This survey should send a clear message to the Oakland City Council: voters are decidedly opposed to the idea of transporting dirty coal through their city. By nearly a three-to-one margin, voters in Oakland say they would be more likely to vote for a member of the City Council who opposed the proposal to transport coal by rail through the city for export. And poll results suggest that the more that people hear about the proposal, the more they agree it is an unnecessary and risky part of an otherwise important plan to build a new export terminal in West Oakland. Rather than invest in the dirty fuels of the past, Oakland City Council members should be investing in the clean energy solutions that will bring good jobs, cleaner air and water, and a more secure economic future to the people of Oakland.

“No community, rich or poor, should endure the effects of coal. But the environmental inequity of the coal terminal proposal cannot be disregarded,” said Rev. Kenneth Chambers, pastor of West Side Missionary Baptist Church in Oakland.

“No community, rich or poor, should endure the effects of coal. But the environmental inequity of the coal terminal proposal cannot be disregarded,” said Rev. Kenneth Chambers, pastor of West Side Missionary Baptist Church in Oakland.

Background: 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, promised not include coal as a commodity handled by the terminal, but now they are soliciting 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. This deal is being conducted behind the backs of the Oakland City Council and the Port, both of oppose coal as a commodity for shipping in Oakland. Additionally, the developer promised residents that the city-owned port would be coal free. While the Mayor, members of the council and residents have demanded a stop to these talks, the developer has yet to abandon the plans.

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 national train company, 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. Additionally, this deal will stifle California’s strong commitment to cutting carbon pollution, especially as the state continues to suffer from extreme drought, forest fires, and other signs of climate disruption.

Read more in the Yodeler and on our website.

Teach-in to connect #CoalFreeOakland campaign to struggles for social, racial, and economic justice

At a September meeting of the Oakland City Council, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union testified that coal exports would have a major impact on worker health and safety.

At a September meeting of the Oakland City Council, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union testified that coal exports would have a major impact on worker health and safety.

Speaking from Paris, where she’s attending the international climate conference, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf told a reporter for the Bay Area News Group that “the handling of coal is a great example of an issue that crosses areas of climate change, public health, and as well as equity.” Mayor Schaaf was responding to questions about how Oakland could claim to be a climate leader while allowing a plan to export millions of tons of coal out of a new terminal on the city’s waterfront.

Schaaf’s statement was right on the money, but words alone won’t keep coal dust out of our lungs and out of our atmosphere. To help grow momentum for the campaign to keep Oakland coal-free, we’re hosting a rally and teach-in in partnership with a coalition of  progressive activists who are united in the struggle for environmental, social, racial, and economic justice.

WHAT: #CoalFreeOakland Rally and Teach-in
WHEN
: Tuesday, December 8th, 5:30 to 7 pm
WHERE: Oakland City Hall (rally) and 436 14th Street, Second Floor (teach-in)
RSVP HERE

Our advocacy over the past six months has helped push Oakland’s city council to acknowledge that they have the power to block coal exports at the new terminal on the grounds that it’s hazardous to public health and safety. Unfortunately, the City Council has delayed action on this issue to February 16th. Until then, we need to keep the pressure on City leaders and keep educating our fellow Bay Areans about why this coal-export deal would be a disaster for public health, worker safety, and the climate.

Tuesday’s teach-in will connect the struggle for environmental justice with struggles for social, racial, and economic justice. Meet us first at City Hall for a rally and action, and then join the informal discussion and teach-in nearby, at 436 14th Street, Second Floor. The teach-in will feature speakers from a broad intersection of Oakland’s progressive activist groups, including:

  • Black Lives Matter
  • Fight for $15
  • The anti-displacement coalition Oakland Citywide Network
  • No Coal in Oakland

When we stand together we win. If you believe in a coal-free future for the Bay Area, we need you standing with us.

Questions? Email conservation organizer Brittany King. Read more about this issue on our website at sierraclub.org/sfbay/coalfreeoakland.

Sierra Club and community partners keep pressure on Oakland City Council to ban coal exports—Join Dec. 8 teach-in and action

Margaret Gordon testifies at the Oakland City Council's hearing on the public health and safety impacts of coal exports. She said, "If we bring in coal we can't boast about being a green city."

Margaret Gordon testifies at the Oakland City Council’s hearing on the public health and safety impacts of coal exports. She said, “If we bring in coal we can’t boast about being a green city.”

Since the Oakland Army Base adjacent to the Bay Bridge was decommissioned in 1999, Oakland officials and community groups have been planning a project at the site of the former Army Base that would benefit the local economy and clean up the local environment. That vision of the project is now in jeopardy.

The redevelopment project, now called the Oakland Global Trade & Logistics Center (aka Oakland Global), is being built by private developer Phil Tagami. Last April, the Sierra Club discovered that Tagami had been in backroom talks with four Utah counties to make a deal that would dedicate at least half of the planned Oakland Global bulk marine terminal’s capacity to exporting millions of tons of Utah coal abroad. This deal would make Oakland the largest coal-exporting site on the West Coast, and would increase national coal exports by 19%!

Hundreds of anti-coal protesters at Oakland City Hall

Hundreds of anti-coal protesters at Oakland City Hall

Tagami has solicited hundreds of millions of public dollars to make Oakland Global a reality. Perversely, if the coal deal is allowed to go through, our taxpayer dollars will fund a project that would make air quality worse in West Oakland, a community that’s already overburdened by pollution.

That’s why we have spent the last six months fighting alongside labor, environmental justice, faith, and community groups to counteract the influence of private developers and coal companies at Oakland City Hall. To protect communities from West Oakland to Utah, and to put a stop to the catastrophic climate change caused by burning fossil fuels, this coal needs to stay in the ground. Oakland Global can and should be a success without transporting toxic fossil fuels.

After a summer of activism, the City Council acknowledged thousands of community petitions by hosting a public hearing on the potential health and safety impacts of local coal exports. On September 21st, hundreds of residents, activists, and experts came to City Hall and spoke out against coal exports.  Thanks to community pressure, the Council then ordered staff to review public testimony, and investigate courses of potential action.

Because of the imminent threats to the health and safety of the workers and the community that coal exports pose, the Oakland City Council has the legal authority to ban coal exports from the Oakland Global terminal. They set December 8th as a deadline for themselves to take action on this issue — though action may now be delayed. We need to stand strong on December 8th and demand immediate action on this urgent issue.

For the city to finalize the coal exports ban, an ordinance will have to see at least two more readings.  Thus, the Council will need to take at least two more meetings in the beginning of next year to finalize the ban.

WhatYouCanDo

Join us on December 8th as we return to City Hall for a teach-in and action calling for an end to this crazy coal plot. We have a better vision for Oakland: good, safe jobs, healthy communities, and public land used for the public good.  Now it’s time to make our voices heard and make this vision a reality.

WHAT: Teach-in and action for a coal-free Oakland
WHEN: Tuesday, December 8th, 5:30 to 7 pm
WHERE: Oakland City Hall

If you are an Oakland resident, please take the time to call your council member now and ask them to vote to keep Oakland coal free! If you are not an Oakland resident, please call Mayor Schaaf and tell her that coal exports would be a disaster for the local economy, public health and safety, and climate.

  • Dan Kalb, District 1, (510) 238-7001
  • Abel Guillen, District 2, (510) 238-7002
  • Lynette Gibson McElhaney, District 3, (510) 238-7003
  • Annie Campbell Washington, District 4, (510) 238-7004
  • Noel Gallo, District 5, (510) 238-7005
  • Desley Brooks, District 6, (510) 238-7006
  • Larry Reid, District 7, (510) 238-7007
  • Rebecca Kaplan, At Large, (510) 238-7008
  • Mayor Libby Schaaf, (510) 238-3141

Jeremy Gong