Enviro groups protest coal/petcoke export deals at Port of Long Beach

The Sierra Club, Earthjustice and other environmental groups filed an appeal on June 23 challenging the Port of Long Beach’s recent approval of two agreements that allow the California port to annually export more than 1 million tons of coal and petroleum coke for the next 15 years.

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

The port, though, approved the two agreements, one of which was an Operating Agreement with Metropolitan Stevedore Co. (known as “Metro” for short) and a new lease with Oxbow Energy Solutions. 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.

Said the appeal about the Oxbow lease: “The Board of Harbor Commissioners has also been asked to approve a new 15-year Lease between Oxbow Carbon and Minerals, LLC (Oxbow) and the Port for use of a 5.4 acre land pad occupied by a coal barn and associated improvements. Oxbow currently operates at the facility under a sublease agreement with Metro. The facility is used for storage and export of coal. The new lease includes a Guaranteed Minimum Annual Throughput of coal, which requires Oxbow to ship a minimum of 1.7 million metric tons (‘MT’) of coal per lease year for the first 5 years, or else pay economic penalties.”

The appeal added: “The Port argued that the proposed project fit within Categorical Exemption Class 1 because the new agreements are merely approvals of on-going operations with no or ‘negligible’ expansion. However, as mentioned in our previous comment (June 9, 2014 Comment, at 5-7), the new agreements have new coal shipment minimum requirements as well as unfettered discretion to increase those requirements. Those new provisions indicate a foreseeable expansion that is not ‘negligible,’ and therefore does not meet the Class 1 Categorical Expansion.”

Oxbow is a major marketer of petroleum coke and also coal from various coal mines, including its own Elk Creek mine in Colorado.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.