Calif. Vote Deals Blow To Utah’s Coal Country

The Oakland City Council voted Monday to ban the handling and storage of coal and coke at a proposal terminal in a bid by four Utah counties to ship coal from the Port of Oakland. File photo by Sheila Fitzgerald/Shutterstock

OAKLAND, Calif., June 28 (UPI) — The Oakland, Calif., City Council voted unanimously Monday to block the handling and storage of coal, rejecting a developer’s plan to ship coal from the Port of Oakland overseas.

The proposal would have allowed four coal-producing counties in Utah rail access to a new shipping terminal adjacent to the Port of Oakland near the east end of the Bay Bridge.

The 7-0 vote came after a contentious council meeting that drew several hundred people inside, and advocates and opponents of the ban demonstrating outside. A second vote is expected July 19 but it’s largely ceremonial.

A major redevelopment of the abandoned 130-acre Oakland Army Base is planned in an attempt to bring several thousand jobs to a poverty-ridden and violent city.

The project, dubbed Oakland Global, is projected to bring up to $2.9 million in annual property taxes.

“If a person doesn’t have a job, it’s going to affect their health — they can’t get the right kind of medical [care] they need for their families,” the Rev. Kevin Barnes of Abyssinian Missionary Baptist Church told before the meeting.

Utah, which agreed to spent $53 million on the project, wants to reach new markets as energy companies and utilities nationwide move toward natural gas and renewable forms of energy.

But environmentalists were opposed to the project.

Brittany King, conservation coordinator for the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club, said Monday the ban would “protect Oakland from dirty, dangerous coal exports.”

Mayor Libby Schaaf and Councilman Dan Kalb, the main advocates, argue that these fossil fuels pollute the air and are serious health risks to nearby residents and workers.

Assistant City Administrator Claudia Cappio recommended a ban in a staff report published Friday afternoon. A study by Oakland’s hired environmental consultant, ESA, said coal dust can damage vital organs, cause cancer and stunt children’s growth.

Oakland developer Phil Tagami has said that any coal ban could derail his project, which the city approved three years ago. Tagami, whose company is California Capital & Investment Group, entered into talks with the Utah counties in 2014.


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