California Blocks State Funding for Coal Projects


Efforts to keep coal out of Oakland made their way to Sacramento last week when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that will ban state funding for coal-related projects. 


Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland) authored bill SB 1279, which prohibits the California Transportation Commission from providing funds to new bulk-coal terminals in the state.


Effective Jan. 1, 2017, the measure only applies to future projects.


“When I introduced this measure, many people thought a coal-export terminal in West Oakland was a done deal,” Hancock said. “Today, people can breathe easier knowing that beginning in January no coal-related projects will receive state funding.”


Hancock introduced the bill in February in response to Phil Tagami and Jerry Bridges’ proposal for a massive coal export terminal in West Oakland at the former Army Base.


Bridges was once the executive director of the Port of Oakland, and Tagami is a real estate developer and friend of Gov. Brown.


The plan, which would have exported up to 10 million tons of coal annually, was derailed after environmental groups, labor activists and other community organizers pressured the Oakland City Council to pass an ordinance in June that bans the storage of coal in Oakland.


Though Brown remained relatively quiet when activists were working to stop coal from passing through the city’s port, he applauded the work done to ban transportation of the fossil fuel in Oakland, where he previously served as mayor.


“Other localities should follow suit — and the state should, too — to reduce and, ultimately, eliminate the shipment of coal through California ports,” Brown said in his signing message.


According to the LA Times, opponents said the measure might violate U.S. treaty obligations and commerce laws because it singles out one commodity. Groups that oppose the bill include the California Teamsters Public Affairs Council, the California Trade Coalition and the League of California Cities.


For Hancock and groups like the Sierra Club, which fought against the proposed coal terminal in Oakland, the governor’s decision comes as a victory.


“Together, Governor Brown and Senator Hancock have sent a very powerful message: California is not interested in enabling a planet-killing industry,” said Brittany King, a conservation program coordinator with the Sierra Club. “Coal has no place in our power system, and now it has no place in our export system.”


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