By DAVID DEBOLT | firstname.lastname@example.org |
PUBLISHED: January 30, 2017 at 1:00 pm | UPDATED: January 30, 2017 at 1:18 pm
OAKLAND — Anti-coal activists stood in support of the city of Oakland on Monday, holding an afternoon protest outside the offices of developer Phil Tagami, who filed a lawsuit last month seeking to overturn the City Council’s vote to ban coal transports in the city.
Members of No Coal in Oakland and labor and faith leaders began the rally at 1 p.m. outside the Rotunda Building, Tagami’s headquarters. The protest was a show of support for the city and City Attorney Barbara Parker. Attorneys for the city are expected to file a response to Tagami’s federal lawsuit on Monday.
The council’s ban essentially derailed Tagami’s plans to import and export coal through a new terminal he is building adjacent to the Port of Oakland. But Oakland is up against Tagami’s high profile lawyers, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, and the Trump administration, which has signaled support for reviving the coal industry.
“It’s going to be years of litigation which is a lot of money and time that the city could spend on better things,” Margaret Rossoff of No Coal in Oakland said Monday morning. “If we lose we’ll get a coal terminal. If we win we’ll spend a lot of time and money.”
Tagami, developer of the Oakland Fox Theater and the Rotunda, in 2013 won the contract to develop the former Oakland Army base into the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal, a $250 million global logistics center on the Outer Harbor.
In 2014 the council passed a resolution opposing the transportation of coal and crude oil through Oakland, but the 2013 development agreement with Tagami did not restrict him from shipping coal through the terminal. Once his plan to ship the ore by rail from Utah to Oakland surfaced, activists and city leaders fought to stop him.
The council in June unanimously approved the coal ban. Attorneys for Tagami filed a federal suit in December, arguing the council’s vote was an “unconstitutional abuse of its power” and conflicted with the 2013 agreement. The lawsuit also claimed the city violated federal laws that regulate interstate trade, rail transportation and maritime shipping.
Neither Tagami, nor his attorney, Robert P. Feldman, would comment.
Between singing folk songs and giving speeches, activists said Tagami is ignoring the wishes of residents and city officials who are concerned that shipping coal through the East Bay comes at the expense of residents’ health.
Michael Kaufman, co-coordinator of No Coal in Oakland, said the developer’s suit could set a bad precedent. The December lawsuit in part argues that federal law regulating interstate trade, rail transportation and maritime shipping supersedes local laws, such as the council’s coal ban. Kaufman said if the city loses it could deal a blow to other local governments fighting to stop potential environmental catastrophes.
“We can’t count on the federal government to protect us,” Kaufman said.
Rev. Ken Chambers of West Side Missionary Baptist Church, longtime West Oakland environmental activist Margaret Gordon and labor leaders joined in the call for Tagami to drop the suit.
Tagami, developer of the historic Oakland Fox Theater and Rotunda, in 2013 won the contract to develop the former Oakland Army base into the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal, a $250 million global logistics center on the Outer Harbor.
The development agreement with Tagami did not mention coal — either as a possible commodity to be shipped through the new terminal or a commodity that would not be allowed. In response to rumors about the possibility, the council in 2014 passed a resolution opposing transportation of coal and crude oil through Oakland. Once Tagami’s plan to ship the ore by rail from Utah to Oakland surfaced, activists and city leaders fought to stop him, and in June, the council unanimously approved the coal ban.
Attorneys for Tagami filed a federal suit six months later, arguing the council’s vote was an “unconstitutional abuse of its power” and conflicted with the 2013 agreement.
In court papers filed Monday, Parker and attorney Kevin Siegel challenged Tagami’s claim that the coal ban violated the development agreement. The city’s attorneys argued Tagami had no vested right to store or handle coal at the terminal and is currently only in negotiations with Terminal Logistics Solutions to do so.
Parker is asking U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria to hold a hearing on April 20 to consider the city’s motion to dismiss that claim. Parker is expected to file a separate response to address Tagami’s other allegations against the city.