Environmentalists file lawsuit to stop Coal being shipped through Oakland
Environmental groups filed a lawsuit to try to put a wrench in an Oakland developer's plans to ship coal through the city.
Earthjustice, on behalf of groups like Communities for a Better Environment, the Sierra Club and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, filed an action in Alameda County Superior Court to call for a new California Environmental Quality Act review before the project continues, the groups announced Friday.
The groups are protesting a proposal to ship Utah coal by rail through the new maritime bulk terminal being developed by Phil Tagami for the city at the former army base, a cornerstone project for the city.
Terminal Logistics Solutions, the company with the exclusive rights to the terminal, has secured $53 million in Utah funding to export coal to Asia through the site adjacent to the Port of Oakland. The company's executives, including Jerry Bridges, a former executive director of the port, say a new environmental review isn't necessary because coal is a legal commodity to export under federal law.
But activists say coal dust from the rail transport would impact West Oakland communities that already more susceptible to respiratory illnesses. They also don't support the burning of fossil fuels for energy -- anywhere, including in China -- which they say contributes to global climate change. The new review is needed because coal wasn't included in the original proposal, their lawyers said.
"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, a lawyer 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 City Council has had one public hearing to receive more information on coal and could take action, to either try to prevent or allow coal, before December.