Call for federal investigation of Oakland coal terminal financing

  • Mr Money Bags mural by "Alec" in Los Angeles, photo by Aisle Twenty Two via Flickr,

A letter sent by conservation, health, and good-government organizations to Attorney General Loretta Lynch  on June 20, 2016 calls for a federal investigation into potential legal and ethical violations in Utah’s $53 million publicly funded loan to fund a coal export terminal in Oakland. The letter was sent on behalf of Earthjustice, the Sierra Club, Alliance for a Better Utah, HEAL Utah, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, the Grand Canyon Trust, Living Rivers, and the Center for Biological Diversity.

As the Salt Lake City Tribune reports:

The groups allege Utah leaders are brazenly circumventing common-sense limits on how the Utah Permanent Community Impact Fund Board, or CIB, is to administer such revenue. This past legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill authorizing the CIB to trade its federally sourced dollars with state dollars that would be targeted to “throughput” projects geared toward moving Utah products to distant markets.

While the measure was billed as a way to boost the economic prospects of rural Utah, critics call it a “money-laundering scheme” to subsidize Bowie Resource Partners, Utah’s largest coal producer, at the expense of the environment.

Quoting a press release posted by Earthjustice:

The letter, which also was addressed to Gregory J. Gould, director of the Office of Natural Resources Revenue, and Mary Kendall, interim Inspector General of the Department of the Interior, cites Utah’s misuse of federal community development funds and the elaborate web of potential conflicts of interest that propelled the scheme through state agency and legislative approval processes with scant public scrutiny.

“It’s staggering that the Legislature and Governor were willing to throw tens of millions in taxpayer money at a project so rife with conflicts of interest,” said Michael Shea, Policy associate at HEAL Utah. “It is very clear that someone from the outside should take a careful look at this.”

As Oakland’s City Council prepares to vote in a special meeting on Monday June 27th on a proposal to ban coal storage and handling at the Oakland Bulk and Oversize Terminal (OBOT), No Coal In Oakland welcomes the call for investigation of this attempt to divert funding intended for mitigation in communities affected by mines for the benefit of private coal companies and developers.