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Challenging Proposed Coal Export Terminal in Oakland, California

Aerial view of the San Francisco Bay. The coal export terminal would be developed on a piece of land right next to where the eastern end of the San Francisco Bay Bridge (center) touches down in Oakland.

Aerial view of the San Francisco Bay. The coal export terminal would be developed on a piece of land next to where the eastern end of the San Francisco Bay Bridge (center) touches down in Oakland.

Bing Maps. Microsoft. Retrieved 2 November 2015.

What’s at Stake

Transporting and storing coal on the Oakland waterfront poses serious short- and long-term impacts on community health and the local environment.

Additional harm stems from exporting coal overseas. The carbon dioxide produced by burning coal contributes to global climate change, and pollutants from coal combustion in Asia drift eastward over the Pacific, worsening West Coast air quality.


After years of assurances that coal would not be transported through Oakland’s proposed bulk terminal at the former Oakland Army Base, in April 2015, community members learned that the developers had secretly cut a funding deal with four Utah counties that would bring coal into Oakland. The project, known as the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal, is being built by a group of developers led by Prologis CCIG Oakland Global LLC.

Contrary to the fundamental requirements of California Environmental Quality Act, the environmental review for the project failed to include any discussion or analysis of the impacts of transporting, handling or exporting coal from Oakland on surrounding neighborhoods or the environment. This is particularly problematic given the project's disproportionate impact on Oakland's most vulnerable communities of color.

In exchange for $53 million in project funding, the developers promised the Utah counties shipping rights to at least 49% of the bulk terminal’s 9–10 million ton annual shipping capacity. Utah officials have stated that they intend to use this capacity to export coal to overseas markets. This development followed a number of public statements by CCIG’s President and CEO, Phil Tagami, that the company had “no interest or involvement in the pursuit of coal-related operations at the former Oakland Army Base.”

Case Updates

May 16, 2018 | Legal Document

Oakland Bulk Terminal Decision

The resolution applying the coal ordinance to the OBOT facility is invalid, because it is a breach of the development agreement. The City is therefore enjoined from relying on the resolution either to apply the ordinance to OBOT or to restrict future coal operations at the facility. As a practical matter, this renders the coal ordinance a nullity, because the only reason the City adopted it was to restrict OBOT's operations, and OBOT is the only facility in Oakland to which it could conceivably apply. But as a strictly technical matter, there's no reason to strike down the ordinance once it has been determined that Oakland may not presently apply it to OBOT. The City remains free, of course, to pursue future regulation of the project so long as it complies with its legal obligations, including any legitimate contractual obligations to the project developers. Because OBOT prevails on its breach of contract claim, the Court enters judgment for OBOT without reaching the constitutional and statutory claims raised at summary judgment.
Dated: May 15, 2018
United States District Judge Case 3:16-cv-07014-VC Document 249 Filed 05/15/18 Page 37 of 37

February 16, 2017 | Legal Document

Oakland Coal Export Ban Challenge Motion to Dismiss

pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-2, that on April 20, 2017, at 10:00 a.m., or as soon thereafter as the matter may be heard, in the courtroom of the Honorable Vince Chhabria, at the United States Courthouse, 450 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94102, Sierra Club and San Francisco Baykeeper, by counsel, will move the Court for an order dismissing two Commerce Clause claims filed by Plaintiff Oakland Bulk & Oversized Terminal, LLC.

February 16, 2017 | Legal Document

Oakland Coal Ban Challenge Motion to Intervene

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), Sierra Club and San Francisco Baykeeper respectfully move to dismiss two of the claims embedded within OBOT’s First Claim for Relief, namely, that Oakland Ordinance No. 13385 and Resolution No. 86234 violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution by (1) discriminating against out-of-state interests in favor of local ones; and (2) imposing an undue burden on interstate commerce. (Proposed) Defendant-Intervenors make this motion on the ground that as a matter of law, the facts alleged in the Complaint, judicially noticeable facts, and the plain language of the Ordinance and Resolution do not support viable claims by OBOT. Accordingly, this Motion seeks an order dismissing with prejudice the Commerce Clause discrimination and undue burden claims alleged within OBOT’s First Claim for Relief.