OAKLAND, Calif.— Community and environmental groups took legal action today to defend a ban on coal storage and handling at the Port of Oakland. The city’s prohibition faces a legal challenge by a local developer and out-of-state coal interests looking to bring millions of tons of coal annually to the former Oakland Army Base terminal.
Five organizations with offices in Oakland — West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Communities for a Better Environment, No Coal in Oakland and the Center for Biological Diversity — filed a friend of the court brief defending Oakland’s move to keep coal out of its communities.
People living in the West Oakland neighborhood next to the terminal would be hit especially hard. Despite recent improvements in air quality, the neighborhood has some of the highest levels of air pollution and worst health conditions in the city. West Oakland residents are twice as likely as others in Alameda County to be hospitalized due to asthma, and the cancer risk is 2.5 times higher than the area average.
“As a third generation resident of West Oakland, I have fought for environmental justice in West Oakland for over 20 years,” said Ms. Margaret Gordon, cofounder of West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project. “The developer of the former Oakland Army Base is putting profit over people. His coal plan shows total disregard for West Oakland residents, and the health and safety of all who live, work, play and pray in the city.”
“Oakland’s low-income communities of color are already subjected to cumulative impacts of many pollution sources,” said Ernesto Arevalo, Northern California program director at Communities for a Better Environment. “The city has the right and the duty to protect the people of Oakland from the transport, handling and storage of coal near residents’ doorsteps.”
The federal court for the Northern District in California is slated to hear arguments on the case in January 2018. The Oakland City Council passed the ban in June 2016 in response to extensive evidence showing that coal poses substantial health and safety risks to workers and residents.
“Oakland’s coal legislation is a necessary and legally sound measure that protects city residents from hazardous pollution,” said Victoria Bogdan Tejeda, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity’s Oakland office. “It would be unsafe and unfair to subject West Oakland to massive amounts of a dirty fossil fuel that releases toxic air pollutants and can cause dangerous fires and explosions.”
Local developer Phil Tagami — slated to redevelop an old army base terminal at the port — challenged the ban and wants to use the project to export 5-10 million tons of coal from Utah to overseas markets. The coal would arrive by mile-long, diesel-powered trains.
“As a resident of Oakland and someone who worked at a locomotive factory for over a decade back in China, I have personally witnessed the disastrous impact that coal has on human health and the environment,” said Hai Po Pan, a community leader with the Asian Pacific Environmental Network. “We cannot allow greed at the expense of our overall health, our community health and the health of our beloved city.”
“These developers should be helping Oakland usher in 21st century jobs, not suing our city to protect a toxic, 19th-century industry,” said Brian Beveridge, co-director of West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project. “Our community deserves to be protected.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
For Immediate Release, December 7, 2017
Contact: Ms. Margaret Gordon, West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, (510) 257-5640, margaret.woeip.com
Victoria Bogdan Tejeda, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7157, firstname.lastname@example.org
Vivian Huang, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, (510) 282-0135, email@example.com
Ernesto Arevalo, Communities for a Better Environment, (510) 910-5123, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lora Jo Foo, No Coal in Oakland, (510) 282-9454, email@example.com