Ninth Circuit Judges Uphold Coal Ruling, Side with Coal Terminal Developers

May 26, 2020

Oakland Community Advocates Call for New Ordinance to Prevent Coal Pollution


Oakland, CA — Today, over two years after Judge Vince Chhabria struck down the City of Oakland’s prohibition on handling and storage of coal at the former Oakland Army Base, the case was decided on appeal by three Ninth Circuit judges. The judges heard oral arguments on the appeal by the City of Oakland, Sierra Club, and San Francisco Baykeeper in November 2019. The judges decided to uphold the previous decision, overturning the City of Oakland’s prohibition on handling and storage of coal. 


“West Oakland communities are already struggling with 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.”


“This is not the end,” said Isha Clarke, member of Youth Vs Apocalypse. “We will continue to fight because the residents of West Oakland deserve to live in a community that hasn't been poisoned by racism and greed. We are calling on the City of Oakland to pass a new ban that will protect its citizens. No one is disposable.”


“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 documenting the harm coal does to their communities, and protecting the health and safety of their residents and the Bay."


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 (OBOT). 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 are appealing the decision.


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