City Council Votes 7-0 to Ban Coal in Oakland
In a resounding victory for No Coal in Oakland organizers and allies, Oakland residents, the Greater Bay Area community, and Planet Earth, the Oakland City Council voted unanimously on June 27, 2016 to prohibit shipping and handling of coal in Oakland.
At a special meeting that began at 5:00 pm and packed the council chambers and three overflow rooms at City Hall, seven of Oakland’s eight councilmembers heard summaries of reports by Assistant City Administrator Claudia Cappio and public health expert Zoë Chafe. Testimony was offered by many dozens of Oakland’s children, elders, faith leaders, workers, business owners, pediatricians, teachers, and artists — as well as current, former, and prospective elected officials including Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, former Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, and former Assemblymember and current candidate for California State Senate Nancy Skinner. Representatives of Heal Utah, Chase Thomas, Mary Ellen Navas and Bob Archibald, made the trek to Oakland to denounce the shady funding scheme concocted by Utah coal mining cronies to invest $53 million in the OBOT in exchange for the operator’s guarantee to ship Utah coal through the facility.
Members of an independent Public Health Advisory Panel–Dr. Bart Ostro, former chief of the Air Pollution Epidemiology Section, California EPA; Dr. Linda Rudolph of the Public Health Institute; Dr. Amy Kyle of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health; and Dr. Heather Kuiper, the Panel’s coordinator–addressed key public health and safety hazards. The Panel submitted a report to the City two weeks ago, confirmed by similar analyses by Zoë Chafe and the City’s consulting firm, Environmental Science Associates, released last Friday. In the end, over 50 speakers registered their opposition to the plan to ship coal through Oakland.
Two roll call votes around 9:00 pm unanimously approved “an ordinance to prohibit the storage and handling of coal and coke at bulk material facilities or terminals throughout the City of Oakland,” and a regulation that specifically applies this ordinance to the proposed Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT).
Oakland City Councilmember Delsey Brooks was not in attendance. California Governor and former Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown maintained his resolute silence on this crucial health, safety, and environmental issue.
A raucous demonstration outside City Hall before the meeting had No Coal activists chanting and drumming over a smaller but vociferous group of Oakland residents repeating OBOT developers’ thoroughly-debunked claims that prohibiting coal shipments would lead to widespread loss of well-paying jobs for Oakland residents. In fact, fewer than 2% of the 6,500 permanent jobs associated with the Oakland Army Base redevelopment will be jobs working at the prospective marine terminal. No Coal in Oakland‘s rebuttal to a falsehood-packed mailer sent to Oakland residents last week by developer Phil Tagami’s public relations front group explains:
The City’s Economic Impact Analysis showed only 117 permanent on-site jobs would be created at Phil’s highly automated new marine terminal whether it ships coal or grain or some other commodity. Most of the permanent jobs at the Army Base will be in the warehouses operated by Prologis which is now separate and unaffected by the proposed coal operations. Temporary construction jobs for rail, infrastructure and buildings are also not affected.
Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan explicitly called the lies of omission and commission in the disingenuous mailer to the City Council’s attention prior to the vote.
Council President Lynnette Gibson McElhaney barely kept a lid on the meeting while coal proponents remained in the council chambers. Terminal Logistics Solutions (TLS) lobbyist Gregory McConnell threatened the city with a lawsuit if the coal ban were approved, and supporters of the coal terminal repeatedly interrupted speakers opposing coal shipment. But soon after McConnell and TLS President Jerry Bridges addressed the council, and their pro-coal mailer was publicly discredited, coal supporters melted away. By the time the floor was opened to the public for statements, and Council President McElhaney attempted to marshal speakers into two lines so that proponents and opponents of coal could be given fair, alternating turns at the microphone, there was literally no one left who wanted to speak for shipping coal through Oakland.
City of Oakland rules require that the measures approved at last night’s meeting be given a second reading and vote before becoming final. The second reading of both measures is scheduled for Tuesday, July 19, 2016.
Photo credits: Steve Masover.