Enviro groups go to court to stop coal exports from planned Oakland terminal

On Oct. 2, Earthjustice, on behalf of environmental groups including the Sierra Club, filed a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) action in Alameda County Superior Court to challenge the proposal to export Utah coal out of Oakland’s planned bulk terminal at the former Oakland Army Base.

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 CEQA, 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, the lawsuit said.

After years of assurances that coal would not be transported through the bulk terminal, 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, said the club in an Oct. 2 statement about the lawsuit. 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 million-10 million ton annual shipping capacity, the clug said. Utah officials have stated that they intend to use this capacity to export coal to overseas markets.

The Oakland City Council held a hearing on Sept. 21 to gather evidence on the health and safety issues associated with the proposed coal export facility. At the end of the six-hour hearing, the council adopted a resolution to review the information and consider potential action before Dec. 8.

“Shipping coal through the bulk terminal would be devastating to the health of the West Oakland community and many other communities along the rail line,” said Irene Gutierrez, attorney at Earthjustice. “The California Environmental Quality Act was meant to protect the public from being kept in the dark about what this new coal project means for their health, safety and environment. We seek to hold the City to its duties to inform and protect the public.”

“The proposal to ship coal out of Oakland would not only impact our air quality, but our water as well,” George Torgun, Managing Attorney at San Francisco Baykeeper. “Coal dust released by open train cars will pollute our Bay, and the process of suppressing coal dust is itself highly water-intensive.”

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.