Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 17, 2018

Contacts:  Ms. Margaret Gordon, West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, (510) 257-5640,
Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7118,
Kenneth Tang, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, (925) 922-9002,       
Ernesto Arevalo, Communities for a Better Environment, (510) 910-5123,
Lora Jo Foo, No Coal in Oakland, (510) 282-9454,

Community Groups Urge Court to Uphold Oakland's Ban on Coal Storage, Handling

OAKLAND, Calif.— Community and environmental groups took legal action today at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to defend Oakland’s ban on coal storage and handling. The city’s prohibition faces a legal challenge by a local developer and out-of-state coal companies looking to haul in over 7 million tons of coal each year to the former Oakland Army Base terminal next to the Port of Oakland.

Six Oakland organizations filed a friend of the court brief defending the city’s ban: West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Communities for a Better Environment, West Oakland Neighbors, No Coal in Oakland and the Center for Biological Diversity.

People living in the West Oakland neighborhood next to the coal terminal would be hit especially hard by the project.

Despite recent improvements in air quality, the neighborhood has some of the highest levels of air pollution and worst health conditions in the city. West Oakland residents are more likely to be hospitalized due to asthma, and their cancer risk is more than double the Alameda County average.

“As a third-generation resident, I have fought for environmental justice in West Oakland for over 20 years,” said Ms. Margaret Gordon, cofounder of West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project. “The developer of the former Oakland Army Base is putting profit over people. His coal plan shows total disregard for West Oakland residents, and the health and safety of all who live, work, play and pray in the city.”

The Oakland City Council passed the ban in June 2016 in response to extensive evidence showing that coal poses substantial health and safety risks to workers and residents. In May 2018 a U.S. District Court ruled in favor of the coal terminal developer, saying the city of Oakland had breached the development agreement, even though there was no mention of coal shipping when the city entered into the agreement.

The developer’s plan would routinely subject West Oakland residents to tiny airborne particles of toxic coal dust that are linked to a wide range of chronic health problems, including bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia, emphysema and heart disease.

“This disgusting coal-export plan will force the children of West Oakland to breathe toxic coal dust known to increase lung and heart diseases,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “With filthy fossil fuels already choking the world we’re handing to our children, the last thing they need is a daily diet of dirty coal dust just from walking down their neighborhood streets.”

“As a resident of Oakland and someone who worked at a locomotive factory for over a decade back in China, I have personally witnessed the disastrous impact that coal has on human health and the environment,” said Hai Bo Pan, a community leader with the Asian Pacific Environmental Network. “We cannot allow greed at the expense of our overall health, our community health and the health of our beloved city.”

The ban is being challenged by local developer Phil Tagami, who wants to use an old army-base terminal next to the port to export more than 7 million tons of coal annually from Utah. The coal would arrive by mile-long, diesel-powered trains.

“Oakland’s low-income communities of color are already subjected to cumulative impacts of many pollution sources,” said Ernesto Arevalo, Northern California program director at Communities for a Better Environment. “The city has the right and the duty to protect the people of Oakland from the transport, handling and storage of coal near residents’ doorsteps.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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