Groups Request New Hearing on Oakland Coal Pollution


In May this year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to block the City of Oakland’s authority to stop coal pollution within its own city limits. Today, San Francisco Baykeeper and the Sierra Club — through their attorneys at Earthjustice — filed a request asking the court to reconsider its decision.


This request for a new hearing is being coordinated with a similar request from the City of Oakland. The requests ask the broader 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to re-evaluate the earlier decision by three of its judges, which upheld a narrow ruling by a lower court, or certify the case to the California Supreme Court to resolve exceptionally important issues of state law. 


“West Oakland communities are already burdened by severe air pollution and can’t afford the added impacts of coal pollution,” said Jessica Yarnall Loarie, senior attorney for the Sierra Club Environmental Law Program. “The City of Oakland had, and continues to have, every right to use their legal authority to ban the storage and handling of coal for the sake of public health and safety. We will continue to support them as the City looks for a solution that creates jobs at the new terminal without compromising community health and safety.”


“Protecting the Bay and Bay Area communities from dirty coal pollution has never been more important,” said Ben Eichenberg, staff attorney for San Francisco Baykeeper.  “Oakland, and all California cities, should stay the course and continue fighting against the harm coal does to their communities, and protect the health and safety of their residents; and, in the case of Oakland, the health of San Francisco Bay as well.”


Background: A portion of the former Oakland Army Base is being developed as a bulk export facility, known as the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal. CCIG, the developer, promised not to include coal as a commodity handled by the terminal, but later solicited a partnership with four Utah counties that would have allowed coal companies to ship up to 10 million tons of coal each year. A Utah funding body approved $53 million to buy space at Oakland Bulk Terminal for these exports. This deal was conducted behind the back of the Oakland City Council.


Those who oppose the plan to store and handle coal in Oakland have voiced concerns over how this decision will affect the community’s safety, the environment, and public health. The Oakland City Council voted in July of 2016 to ban the storage and handling of coal in Oakland, and at the former Army Base. In December of 2016 developers including Phil Tagami sued the City of Oakland to overturn their ban on storage and handling of coal. In May 2018, Judge Vince Chhabria struck down the ban, only as it applied to the Army Base, after a three-day trial. The City of Oakland, Sierra Club, and San Francisco Baykeeper appealed to the Ninth Circuit, which affirmed the lower court ruling by a 2-to-1 vote. The City of Oakland, Sierra Club, and San Francisco Baykeeper are now requesting a new hearing by the Ninth Circuit.