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Community Groups Ask Judge to Dismiss Lawsuit Challenging Oakland Coal Ban

Groups filed in support of city council’s ban on handling and storage of coal in Oakland
Opponents of the coal export proposal rally outside of Oakland City Hall on June 27, 2016.

Opponents of the coal export proposal rally outside of Oakland City Hall on June 27, 2016.

Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice
February 16, 2017
Oakland, Calif. —

Today Earthjustice, representing San Francisco Baykeeper and the Sierra Club, filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit from Oakland Bulk & Oversized Terminal, LLC, owned by private developer Phil Tagami, challenging Oakland’s ban on handling and storage of coal in Oakland. The groups also filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Location map of Oakland, California.
The City of Oakland, home to one of the West Coast's major ports, is located across the Bay from San Francisco.

"Oakland city officials were well within their legal rights to take a decisive stand against Phil Tagami after he misled the people of Oakland about coal at the terminal," said Colin O'Brien, Earthjustice attorney who filed the motion to intervene. “Tagami’s lawsuit ignores the will of the people and the health and safety risks coal poses to community members, especially in West Oakland."  

“The City of Oakland carefully examined the significant health impacts that storing and handling coal in West Oakland would have on nearby families already overburdened with air pollution,” said Jessica Yarnall Loarie, Staff Attorney for the Sierra Club Environmental Law Program.

“After their review, the testimony of many experts, and powerful pressure from a local community deeply concerned about air quality, the Oakland City Council voted unanimously to use their legal authority to ban the storage and handling of coal in Oakland. We’ll be here to support the City of Oakland and their sensible ban, every step of the way.”

"A coal terminal on the shoreline of San Francisco Bay will hurt water quality and aquatic life," says Erica Maharg, Baykeeper Managing Attorney. "Baykeeper supports Oakland’s right to ban fossil fuels that are a threat to the Bay and local environment."

The Port of Oakland.
Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice
Developers, politicians and Utah coal barons wanted to bring California’s largest coal export facility to West Oakland—but local residents fought back. See photo feature

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 to include coal as a commodity handled by the terminal, but later solicited a partnership with four Utah counties that would have allowed 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 was conducted behind the backs of the Oakland City Council and the Port, both of which oppose coal as a commodity for shipping in Oakland. Additionally, the developer promised residents that the city-owned port would be coal-free.

Those who oppose 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. Additionally, this deal would have stifled California’s strong commitment to cutting carbon pollution. The Oakland City Council voted in July of 2016 to ban the storage and handling of coal in Oakland. In December of 2016, developers including Phil Tagami sued the City of Oakland to overturn their ban on storage and handling of coal.

Read the legal documents:
Motion to Intervene 
Motion to Dismiss 

Contacts

Phillip Ellis, Senior Press Secretary, Earthjustice, (202) 745-5221

April Thomas, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign, (206) 321-3850