Category Archives: Oakland Ca

Oakland: Utah scraps $53 million plan to ship coal to city

Repost from the East Bay Times

Oakland: Utah scraps $53 million plan to ship coal to city

By David DeBolt, 08/19/2016 06:11:11 PM PDT

OAKLAND — Four Utah counties have withdrawn their plan to spend $53 million in state money to ship coal to Oakland, an official said this week.

Carbon County Commissioner Jae Potter’s announcement Wednesday comes less than two months after the Oakland City Council voted 7-0 to ban the storage and handling of coal and petroleum coke in its city.

Potter said the four coal-producing counties will reapply in about a year with a more detailed application. The rural counties continue to support the project and may ask to ship other products like potash through Oakland, Potter said.

File photo: Anti-coal demonstrators rally in front of City Hall before a special council meeting on the shipping and storage of coal on Monday, June 27,
File photo: Anti-coal demonstrators rally in front of City Hall before a special council meeting on the shipping and storage of coal on Monday, June 27, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

Utah lawmakers in March approved a bill to invest $53 million of state money to ship coal to the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal. The $250 million export terminal and logistics center located on the Outer Harbor at the former Oakland Army Base is being built by developer Phil Tagami. Terminal Logistic Solutions, run by Jerry Bridges, has the exclusive option to operate the terminal.

Bridges has said coal would be one of several commodities shipped there; others include soda ash, potash, limestone, soybeans and other produce.

While shipments of coal had support from lawmakers and coal-producing counties in Utah, Oakland residents, activists and city leaders strongly objected to the proposal. The Oakland council vote was the only way to stop the coal trains because the council approved the project in 2013. Leaders claimed coal was not part of the conversation then, but the agreement did not specify what could and couldn’t be shipped at the terminal.

Environmental groups argued West Oakland residents would be exposed to greater risks of respiratory illness.

“Polling shows Utahns don’t want public money spent on a terminal in Oakland that will never ship coal,” Brittany King, an organizer with the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter, said in a statement. “Oakland residents and decision makers fought so hard to keep coal out of their backyard, so we are happy that Utah withdrew a proposal that is not worth money, time or the risk to public health and safety.”

Longtime West Oakland activist Margaret Gordon expressed some skepticism over what would be included in Utah’s new application.

“That economy in that state is built around coal,” said Gordon, who supports the Oakland terminal but opposes coal. “I’m optimistically cautious about the whole thing.”

A spokesman for Tagami did not return a phone call Friday afternoon. A day before the council’s vote in June, Tagami’s attorney wrote in a letter to city leaders that legal action would be imminent if coal were blocked. Attorney David Smith called the council’s position “irrational” and “legally indefensible.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. David DeBolt covers Oakland.

KQED: Proposed Oakland Shipping Terminal Stirs Health, Environmental Concerns Over Coal

Repost from National Public Radio – KQED Forum
[Editor:  So … 120-car open coal trains might come blowing through Benicia, crossing our rickety 85-year-old Benicia-Martinez Rail Bridge on their way to the East Bay.  Now maybe more Benicians will understand a little better how it feels to be an “uprail” community.  – RS]

Proposed Oakland Shipping Terminal Stirs Health, Environmental Concerns Over Coal

With Mina Kim, Fri, Mar 25, 2016 — 9:30 AM

Download audio (MP3) 

Utah has pledged $53 million to help build a shipping facility in Oakland in hopes of getting the state’s coal overseas. Mark Hogan/Flickr
On Tuesday, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed a bill that allocates $53 million of Utah’s money to help build a cargo terminal in West Oakland. Supporters of the bill argue that the project will bring in much-needed jobs and enable Utah to ship its coal to markets overseas. But environmentalists in the Bay Area oppose the project, arguing that it will contribute to pollution and health problems in a neighborhood already impacted by poor air quality. Forum gets an update on the project and how it may affect Oakland.

 Mina Kim


    • Darwin BondGraham, reporter, East Bay Express
    • Jessica Yarnall Loarie, staff attorney, Sierra Club

First oil, now coal: More fears of trains coming through Davis

Repost from the Davis Enterprise

First oil, now coal: More fears of trains coming through Davis

By Felicia Alvarez, March 25, 2016

The railways are rumbling with controversy once again as state agencies examine a coal train proposal that could send an additional 9 million tons of coal destined for export across California each year.

Four to six 100-car-long coal trains could travel through Davis each day under the plan, delivering coal from mines near Salt Lake City to a new cargo terminal in Oakland. The train route runs roughly parallel to Interstate 80, through Sacramento and Davis and onward to the Bay Area.

“It would more than triple the amount of coal coming out of the West Coast,” said Ray Sotero, communications director for state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Oakland. Hancock introduced several bills in February to block the coal’s transportation.

The exports hinge on the construction of a new port in Oakland, which is receiving state funding for infrastructure and redevelopment in the surrounding areas. Development on the site has been underway for the past three to four years, led by developer Phil Tagami of Bowie Resource Partners, a Kentucky-based coal company with coal mines in Utah, Sotero said.

The coal train controversy arrives amid ongoing debate over Valero’s proposal to expand its refinery in Benicia and increase crude oil shipments by rail through Northern California.

The proposal — which would send 50-car-long crude oil shipments through Davis and nearby cities twice a day — was rejected last month by the Benicia Planning Commission, but the City Council will hear Valero’s appeal in April.

Coal is far less likely to explode or poison watersheds — unlike tar sands or crude oil — but it still poses an environmental threat, said Lynne Nittler, a Davis environmental advocate.

“It’s a little safer … but air quality-wise it’s nasty,” she said.

About 18,300 tons of coal dust per year could be released into Northern California’s air, affecting cities from Sacramento and Davis to Emeryville and Oakland, according to an environmental health and safety report by the Sierra Club. The report takes a lower-end estimate with the assumption that three coal trains could travel along the rail route each day.

Coal dust includes lead, mercury and arsenic, as well as fine particles that can contribute to asthma and heart disease, the report states. It also can contaminate air, water and soil, and homes and other buildings adjacent to the railroad tracks.

Local air quality is already below state safety standards, said Tom Hall, a spokesman for the Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District. The region is currently at the “severe non-attainment” level for ground-level smog, he said.

Right now, railroad transport accounts for about 7 percent of nitrogen oxide — a key component of smog — in the area.

“Any extra nitrogen oxide is kind of a problem,” Hall said.

The notion of increasing coal shipments runs contrary to national trends on this greenhouse-gas-producing fuel. President Barack Obama took a stand against coal earlier this year, halting new coal mining leases, effectively putting a stop to new coal production on federal lands.

“We’ve become such short-term thinkers. … That thinking is deadly to us at this point,” Nittler said.

Meanwhile, the political battle rages on.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a deal last week for a $53 million loan to support construction of the new terminal in Oakland. Proponents of the port project say it will bring new jobs and a consistent market for Utah’s struggling coal industry, the Los Angeles Times reports.

California legislators are igniting their own push against the coal trains through the four bills introduced by Hancock.

Two of the bills are directly geared at the Oakland port. SB 1277 would prohibit shipping coal through the port, which is publicly funded in part. SB 1278 would require an environmental impact review for agencies that have authority to vote on any part of the project.

SB 1279 and SB 1280 would prohibit the use of public funds to build or operate any port that exports coal, and require port facilities that ship bulk commodities and receive state funds to prohibit coal shipments or fully mitigate the greenhouse-gas emissions with coal combustion.

A hearing on the bills is scheduled for April 5 at the state Capitol.

Billion Dollar Project Will Bring Millions Of Tons Of Coal To Area Next To Bay Bridge Toll Plaza

Repost from CBS San Francisco / 5KPIX / KCBS740AM-106.9FM

Billion Dollar Project Will Bring Millions Of Tons Of Coal To Area Next To Bay Bridge Toll Plaza

By Christin Ayers, July 1, 2015 9:15 PM

OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Coal is so polluting that demand for it as an energy source is way down in the U.S. The industry has to increase exports to survive. To do that we’ve learned it’s got its eye on the Bay Area.

On the grounds of the old Oakland Army Base a transformation is underway. A new billion dollar rail and marine terminal, called the “Trade and Logistics Center” will open in just three years as a world class hub for the export of bulk commodities, mostly to Mexico, Japan and China

“It’s going to be great for Oakland,” said Jerry Bridges. He’s been hired by the developer to run a project centerpiece, a rail to ship transfer facility right next to the Bay Bridge toll plaza. “Our goal is to have soda ash moved through the facility, pot ash, borax, umm sodium concentrate, coal.”

Coal, Bridges says will be a big part of it. He says he’s close to signing a lucrative contract with 4 counties in Utah to receive and ship out 3 million tons of coal a year. “And let me just say about the coal out of that region: It’s the highest quality coal in the country, and thereby it’s the highest quality coal in the world.”

Coal is already exported through a private transfer yard in Richmond, where it sits in open rail cars right next to homes. Residents are complaining about the coal dust, an air pollutant known to cause asthma and cancer. But Bridges says his terminal will be different. “Every commodity that ships through our facility will arrive at the facility on the railroad in covered rail cars,” he said.

But Jess Dervin-Ackerman of the Sierra Club is skeptical. “They could promise to do that and then not do it,” she said. “Nowhere in the U.S. is coal transported with covered rail cars so how can we know that they can actually do that and protect the community,” she said.

And she says it’s not just about Oakland and the Bay Area. The coal will release tons of greenhouse gases in Mexico and China. “What we are saying is not in anybody’s back yard. We want to leave the coal in the ground,” she said.

Oakland leaders agree. In fact they’ve voted to divest in coal. But we’ve learned they may have tied their own hands when it comes to this deal. The development agreement they signed  says “all approvals shall be made by the city administrator,” which leaves the city council and the public out of the loop, even though the city owns the land that the terminal will be built on.

“Right now we are just focusing on getting it built,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf’s spokesperson Erica Derryck. KPIX5 asked her if the mayor was comfortable with coal exports being part of the project. Her response: “I think it’s too early to say what exactly is going to be part of the commodity group that will be coming through the facility.”

But KPIX 5 obtained an email that shows the mayor is working behind the scenes to put the kabosh on the coal deal. “I was extremely disappointed to hear Jerry Bridges mention the possibility of shipping coal into Oakland,” she writes to the developer.  “Stop it immediately.”

But Jerry Bridges says he has no plans to back down. “The CEQA entitlement gives us every right to build and transport what we need to transport in order to be a viable and feasible project,” he said.

The project’s developer and landlord, prominent Oakland businessman Phil Tagami, turned down our request for an interview. In a statement he says it’s not up to him to decide what comes through the new terminal, it’s up to the man he hired to run it, Jerry Bridges.

Phil Tagami’s complete statement:

The City of Oakland approved an agreement to create the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT), a multi-commodity bulk marine terminal at the former Oakland Army Base, in 2012. The City’s agreement with California Capital & Investment Group (CCIG) was comprehensively analyzed and endorsed under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and reflects a modern, industry-standard marine terminal facility and operation that is consistent with state and federal law. Nothing has changed since the 2012 approval.  OBOT’s construction and operations are designed consistent with the lawful expectations of potential customers – accommodating three or four of the full spectrum of approximately 15,000 bulk commodities regulated by federal law. This is standard industry practice and uniform at marine terminals throughout the United States.

In analyzing OBOT’s development under CEQA, the City imposed a comprehensive series of mitigation measures and conditions that the terminal operator will adhere to. No commodity may be transported through OBOT without full compliance with all applicable state and federal regulations.

CCIG is constructing OBOT, but is not and will not be the terminal operator. Neither CCIG nor any prospective terminal operator has made commitments to shipping any particular commodity through the terminal at this point in time. But, the issue is not about any single commodity. The City reviewed and approved OBOT as proposed. And in reliance on those approvals, CCIG and others have made binding and enforceable commitments to deliver OBOT for operations as entitled to ensure the viability of the entire revitalization plan for Oakland’s working waterfront.