The Oakland City Council will hold a hearing on Monday, Sept. 21 to allow the public to voice its opinions on the export of coal through the Oakland Army Base.
The public hearing—set for 4 p.m. at City Council Chambers—will be an opportunity for city officials to hear both sides on the issue, but no decisions will be made on the shipment of coal, although several city council members and Mayor Libby Schaaf have taken public positions against it.
The coal shipments emerged as a major issue this year in the city when Oakland Army Base developer Phil Tagami, who has the lease from the city for army base construction, transferred the rights to develop the bulk cargo facility to Terminal Logistics Solutions (TLS).
TLS is now constructing the new cargo terminal to handle the shipment of virtually any commodity, which could include coal.
In a sharp email exchange released to the Sierra Club through a Public Records Act request, Mayor Schaaf told Tagami to stop all mention of “the possibility of shipping coal into Oakland” and stated, “We will not have coal shipped through our city.”
One supporter of shipping coal through the new bulk cargo terminal is Darrel Carey, founder of the East Bay Small Business Council (EBSBC).
“The facility will provide 140 direct jobs at the plant itself and another subsequent 1,000 jobs in supportive services,” Carey said. “I want those jobs to be for Oaklanders.”
Responding to local community’s health concerns, he and other advocates of exporting say the coal would be brought into Oakland in sealed railway containers and that coal would never see the light of day before being loaded into cargo ships.
But those opposed to the shipments claim there has never been anything in writing assuring that coal would come in closed containers.
“We have no assurances that (closed containers) would happen other than the word of people who are on record saying they would never consider shipping coal in the first place,” said Katy Polony, a member of the No Coal in Oakland Coalition’s Sunflower Alliance, a local neighborhood group based in West Oakland.
According to Polony, the Oakland Army Base will provide just as many jobs if it ships other bulk commodities, such as wheat and machinery.
“Coal actually threatens jobs because it is a dying energy source,” said Polony. “It’s endangering long-term jobs in my opinion.”
The anti-coal coalition has collected over 12,000 signatures on a petition and has been organizing in Oakland communities to pressure City Council to pass an ordinance prohibiting the export of coal through Oakland.