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Challenging the Port of Long Beach's Plan to Export Toxic Coal

A rail line runs past shipping containers at the Port of Long Beach.

A rail line runs past shipping containers at the Port of Long Beach.

Charles Csavossy / U.S. Customs and Border Protection


On behalf of Sierra Club, Communities for a Better Environment and Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice is challenging the Port of Long Beach’s approval of two controversial agreements, which allow the Port to annually export more than 1 million tons of coal and petcoke, a byproduct of oil refining, for the next 15 years.

Petcoke is a coal byproduct so dirty that the Environmental Protection Agency banned future permits for its use in the U.S. While disallowed here, petcoke is viewed in other countries as a cheap fuel, and these countries will buy it from American companies like Oxbow Corporation, founded and headed up by William Koch.

At a Port of Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners’ meeting in June of 2014, Long Beach residents and community organizations raised concerns about the community health and environmental impacts of coal dust blowing off the uncovered rail cars in transit from the coal mines in Utah and Colorado to reach the California coast. Others raised deep concerns about the ethical problems with the Port shipping these dirty fuels overseas, where they’ll be burned in countries with little to no emissions controls, thereby contributing to exacerbating climate change.

In spite of community members’ concerns, the Port approved the two agreements, including one with Oxbow. In entering into the agreements, the Port violates the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires the port to analyze and disclose the environmental impacts of proposed projects and adopt all feasible measures to mitigate those impacts.

The appeal filed to the Long Beach City Council is to enforce state law requiring an adequate environmental analysis that assesses, among other things, the greenhouse gas emissions from burning the coal and petroleum coke that would be exported under the agreements.

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