Enviro groups push Utah Attorney General to reject money for Oakland coal port

The Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust, the Sierra Club and Earthjustice sent a Nov. 2 letter to Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes urging him to invalidate $53 million in state payments in support of a plan to export millions of tons of Utah coal through a proposed bulk terminal in Oakland, Calif.

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. After years of assurances that coal would not be transported through the bulk terminal, in April Oakland community members learned that the developers had secretly cut a funding deal with four Utah counties that would bring coal into Oakland, the environmental groups said.

“Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment believe that it is morally and legally wrong for Utah’s CIB to be using these funds to prop up a dying, dirty energy market,” said Tim Wagner, executive director of UPHE. “We hope that the attorney general will do the right thing to protect Utahns from this health risk and financial fallacy.”

In exchange for $53 million in “community impact board” (CIB) funding, the involved Utah counties would be guaranteed shipping rights to at least 4 million to 5 million tons of the bulk terminal’s 9 million to 10 million ton annual shipping capacity. Utah officials have stated that they intend to use this capacity to export coal to overseas markets.

“This is a raw deal for Utah from every angle,” said Aaron Paul, staff attorney for the Grand Canyon Trust. “It shouldn’t take an opinion from the attorney general for the CIB to see that it shouldn’t be promoting more coal mining in Utah by building a California seaport with money that is supposed to be spent in Utah’s communities to offset coal mining’s burdens on those communities.”

Utah’s board approved the $53 million in funding as a loan in April, but made approval contingent on a legal opinion by Attorney General Reyes supporting the board’s actions, the environmental groups said. To date Reyes has not officially released an opinion.

The letter to Attorney General Reyes asserts that the board does not have the authority to make the loan. Utah law requires that board funds be used in Utah, that funds benefit the public and not be a pass-through to a private venture, and that the funds mitigate impacts from fossil fuel production, the letter said.

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.