Baykeeper Update

Nixing Dirty Coal Export from the Port of Oakland

Joining with a coalition of environmental groups, Baykeeper recently helped scuttle a proposal by developers for a new facility to export coal from the Port of Oakland. Coal breaks apart easily, forming dust that contains mercury, arsenic, uranium, and other toxic substances. Transporting millions of tons of coal in mile-long open car trains to the port, and then loading it onto ships, would send toxic dust into San Francisco Bay. It would also further pollute the air of nearby communities already suffering from disproportionate pollution.

Baykeeper advocated against the coal export facilities as part of a coalition that includes the Sierra Club, Earthjustice, the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, and Communities for a Better Environment.

On February 27, the Port of Oakland Commissioners voted unanimously to reject the coal export facilities. The commissioners cited environmental problems, public health hazards, economic pitfalls, and public opposition as their reasons. 

The proposed coal export facilities would have been located at the 50-acre Howard Terminal site near Jack London Square, and would have involved shipping over four million tons of coal and one million tons of petroleum coke into and out of the port each year.

The proposals were part of the Port of Oakland’s ongoing redevelopment. Baykeeper will continue to advocate against port redevelopment proposals that harm the Bay, and for redevelopment that adequately protects the Bay from pollution, in the near term and as climate change causes sea level rise in the future. 

Proposals to export more coal are part of a push by the fossil fuel industry to make the Bay Area an export center. The oil industry plans a major expansion of oil refineries on the Bay in order to process millions of barrels of oil for export to other states and countries. Baykeeper opposes this approach because a significant increase in oil storage and processing along the Bay’s shores could drastically raise the risk of oil spills into the Bay and its watershed. Moreover, the expanded refineries and storage facilities could be flooded by rising Bay levels due to global climate change, causing even more pollution in the Bay.