Oakland City Council passes anti-fossil fuel resolution

The Oakland City Council on June 17 gave final approval to a resolution opposing increased oil, petroleum coke and coal rail movements along rail lines within the city.

The Sierra Club said in a June 17 statement that Oakland is the first city in California to pass a resolution that addresses railway transportation of not only oil but also coal and petcoke. 

“This resolution is critical to protect the health, safety and well-being of Oakland and East Bay families and businesses, not to mention the cultural and economic vitality of our communities,” said council member Lynette Gibson McElhaney. “Oakland is leading the way for Californians who want to tell Big Coal and Big Oil that we cannot bear the risk they impose upon on our town.”

“From the Gulf Coast to the Pacific Coast, from mine to rail and port to plant, local communities are standing up against dangerous coal and oil exports,” said Jess Dervin-Ackerman, conservation organizer with the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter. “We want our local economy to be bolstered by clean, renewable energy from wind and solar, not carbon-intensive, highly-polluting fossil fuels.”

Due to community organizing, coal, petcoke and oil export facilities have been unable to move forward along much of the West Coast, including further north in Oregon and Washiington. Other communities in California have passed similar resolutions regarding oil transport, including Berkeley and Richmond. In Washington and Oregon, three coal export proposals have been abandoned and the remaining three face fierce opposition, the club said.

The resolution passed by the council noted that California refineries are in the process of securing permits to build rail terminals to import Canadian tar sands and Bakken crude oils from North Dakota, and existing rail terminals are securing permits to import tar sands and crude oil. Refineries have similar projects planned to transport hazardous crude by rail through Oakland and other East Bay cities. California public and private ports are in the process of securing permits to build or expand export facilities for coal and petcoke.

The California Assembly passed, and Gov. Jerry Brown signed, Assembly Joint Resolution No. 35 in September 2012 urging the President and Congress to enact legislation to restrict the export of coal for electricity generation to any nation that fails to adopt regulations on greenhouse gas emissions or hazardous air emissions that are at least as restrictive as those adopted by the U.S.

The resolution says that the Oakland City Council opposes using existing rail lines to transport hazardous crude oil, coal and petcoke along California waterways, natural habitats, through densely populated areas, through the East Bay and Oakland, through special districts and the Port of Oakland.

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.