By EVAN HALL
Northern California communities are divided over the building of an Oakland port that would send Utah coal across the Pacific Ocean.
11 Bay Area mayors signed a letter on Thursday urging Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf to consider the impacts of the proposed coal port. The letter detailed worries about the environmental cost of using the port to ship Utah coal.
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said that while many residents in the area are against the proposal, the only way to halt the project would be an official study showing immediate harm.
“The City of Oakland gave all of the rights to the developer. It’s insane that they did that but they did,” Bates said. “Oakland has one way that they can definitely block this, and that is to do a study of the health and safety of their citizens. If they make a determination that it’s not safe and it’s not healthy, the whole thing can be derailed right there. Once they get that, they can actually get out of their contract.”
If the study reveals negative impacts, Bates said that litigation could also be used if the port’s developers challenge the findings. He said that even the coal’s delivery route has aroused opposition.
“This train is either going to come through the northern route—which would bring it around by the San Francisco Bay and go to the Port of Oakland—or there’s a southern route, which would bring it through the Altamont Pass east of us. That would impact the mayor of Livermore, Pleasanton, Hayward, and San Leandro before it reaches Oakland,” he said. “Either way, the mayors on both of those routes have said, ‘We don’t want it. Please make a finding. We don’t want this coal.’ So, the mayors are already saying, ‘We don’t want it.’”
The letter also warned that no proven method has been found to contain coal dust during shipments.
Mayor Tom Butt among 11 East Bay mayors backing letter opposing coal shipments
April 15, 2016
Mayors of 11 East Bay cities — including Richmond Mayor Tom Butt — have sent a letter urging Oakland leaders to reject coal shipments from an Oakland marine terminal that’s currently under development.
The mayors said health impacts of shipping coal from the new terminal, which the city’s council approved in 2012, was not addressed in an environmental review. They fear coal bound for the Oakland terminal will be shipped by rail through multiple cities including Richmond and Berkeley.
“If you don’t stop what would be the largest coal terminal on the West Coast of the U.S. the health and safety impacts would be severe, not just for Oakland but also for our communities and for the world,” the mayors said in the letter.
Rail transport of coal will release dust and diesel emissions into neighborhoods already burdened by the health impacts of industry, the mayorsadded.
The debate has also moved to Sacramento. On Tuesday, a state senate committee voted in favor of Sen. Loni Hancock‘s legislation requiring a new environmental report coal transport at the Oakland terminal, which will reportedly create 2,000 jobs. More on that bill in the East Bay Times.
In May of last year, Richmond, also impacted by rail and port activity, passed a two-part resolution opposing rail transport of coal and petroleum coke along California waterways and through populated cities. The city has also been fighting efforts to prevent shipments of crude oil over the risk of derailments and explosions.
“We sincerely urge you — for the sake of all of us and the planet — to take action to reject the coal plan and protect the health and safety of our communities,” the mayors said.
Along with Mayor Butt, signing the letter were Mayors Peter Maass of Albany, Tom Bates of Berkeley, Greg Lyman of El Cerrito, Dianne Martinez of Emeryville, David Haubert of Dublin, Bill Harrison of Fremont, Barbara Halliday of Hayward, John Marchand of Livermore, Pauline Cutter of San Leandro and Carol Dutra-Vernaci of Union City.