“Catch Up on Coal” Community Meeting held on April 19th

  • Westside Missionary Baptist Church, Oakland, California

Oaklanders attending an NCIO meeting for the first time joined longtime activists on Thursday evening April 19th at the West Side Missionary Baptist Church on Willow Avenue to share a meal, then discuss Oakland’s ongoing effort to keep the West Gateway coal-free. No Coal in Oakland thanks our host for the evening, Rev. Ken Chambers, as well as the dozens of other clergy, journalists, attorneys, and neighbors who came to hear and discuss updates on the No Coal campaign, and to plan strategy and tactics as the struggle for Oakland’s well-being continues.

Coal Lawsuit Status

First up on the agenda, NCIO’s lora jo foo summarized the current state of the lawsuit coal developer Phil Tagami has brought against Oakland in response to the City Council’s unanimously-enacted ordinance banning coal storage and handling, Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal LLC (OBOT) vs City of Oakland. Following a three-day trial in January and filing of post-trial briefs filed in February and March, Federal District Court Judge Vince Chhabria is currently considering and crafting his ruling on the coal developer’s claims. His decision could come at any time, but the case is likely to  be appealed no matter which side he favors. A full analysis of the issues and possible outcomes can be found in No Coal in Oakland’s post of March 27th, 2018.

Don’t raid worker pensions to finance Bowie’s coal terminal in Oakland!

Ted Franklin and Morgan LaManna then laid out the background of NCIO’s latest campaign to stop the coal from fouling our community: pressuring the Bank of Montreal to withdraw from a plan to raise funds to finance the terminal.

Ted led with a Follow The Money history of Tagami’s deceptive and conspiratorial effort to build a terminal in the West Gateway that would be operated by a major coal company, filling in a number of key blanks with information that has come to light in legal filings and public records requests. To summarize:

  • In December 2013 Phil Tagami publicly stated it was “simply untrue” that he planned “to develop a coal plant or coal distribution facility” at the West Gateway.
  • In April 2014, Tagami proved himself a liar by entering into a secret agreement with a wholly-owned subsidiary of the largest coal producer in Utah, Bowie Resource Partners. The agreement gave Bowie the right to sublease and operate the new terminal.
  • To finance Bowie’s coal terminal, Bank of Montreal (BMO) Managing Director Jeffrey Holt worked with the company to secure a commitment of $50 million from the State of Utah to construct a coal terminal, redirecting funds intended to mitigate local impacts of mining operations right back to the company that damaged Utah’s land and people in the first place. BMO tacked on a $3,000,000 fee to Holt’s ‘deal.’
  • BMO’s Holt also secured a public appointment as “Strategic Infrastructure Advisor” to four coal-producing counties in Utah, and outlined in e-mails that came to light in 2016 his plan to raise an additional $200 million of “unrated debt” from private investors to fully finance the coal terminal’s construction.
  • The script,” Holt wrote to Utah government officials and others, “was to downplay coal.” According to Holt’s deceptive script, pension fund managers from whom the Bank of Montreal plans to raise the bulk of the terminal’s funding would not be informed that their money would be poured down the sewer of a failing industry that is internationally recognized as a major contributor to global warming and climate change.

The full and well-cited story can be found in an eight-page Background on the Proposed Oakland, California Coal Terminal, which was developed to accompany NCIO’s letter to the Bank of Montreal asking BMO to “publicly pledge that the bank and its subsidiaries will refrain from advising on or arranging financing for the proposed terminal.”

NCIO’s letter, sent in late March, was described in a press release filed to announce the campaign’s launch. As Morgan explained following Ted’s overview, this was the first volley in a multi-faceted campaign that will publicize the Bank of Montreal’s role in Bowie’s attempt to build an Oakland coal terminal. NCIO and its many ally organizations — including Friends of the Earth, Rainforest Action Network, and 350.org — fully intend to hold BMO publicly accountable if it participates in raising money for Bowie. If Holt’s coal-financing scheme proceeds, it would flagrantly violate a set of business ethics called “The Equator Principles,” to which BMO has been a signatory since 2005.

Morgan then laid out a series of activities and events aimed at turning up the pressure on Bank of Montreal and its coal shill Jeffrey Holt. Participants in the meeting contributed several excellent new ideas.

No Coal in Oakland is looking for activists to help ramp up this new campaign to choke off funding for an Oakland coal terminal — before Bowie Resource Partners chokes West Oakland and communities along the rail lines between Utah and the Bay Area with toxic coal dust. Please drop us a line at nocoalinoakland@gmail.com if you’d like to join in!

Deny Political Clout to Coal Developer Phil Tagami

Margaret Rossoff gave an update on NCIO’s ongoing — but not formally announced — campaign to secure pledges from candidates in this year’s state and local elections. NCIO is asking the candidates to refuse to accept donations from coal developer Phil Tagami until and unless he drops his lawsuit against the City of Oakland. Nearly two dozen candidates for office have signed on already, and a number of Tagami-hosted fundraisers have been canceled.

The NCIO pledge campaign is coordinating with environmental activists in the Sunrise Movement and Indivisible Berkeley who are enlisting California politicians to the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge, a national effort that comprehensively rejects campaign contributions from the oil, gas, and coal industries.

Look for details to be posted soon on the No Coal in Oakland website about this facet of our commitment to keep Oakland from becoming a toxic coal hub.

Announcements: Coal in Richmond, Cities Suing Big Oil for Damages

Margaret went on to describe reinvigorated efforts to halt ongoing and increasing coal shipment in uncovered railcars through the Levin-Richmond marine terminal, which is raining coal dust across the city of Richmond (as documented by a recent report in the East Bay Express and elsewhere).

Coal — some of it dug from Utah mines owned by Bowie Resource Partners, the same company seeking to build a coal terminal in Oakland — is first loaded onto cargo ships in Stockton. But because of the relatively shallow depth of the Carquinez Straits — through which the ships must pass on their way to Asia — they can’t be topped off until they reach deeper water in Richmond. That’s where the uncovered trains and uncovered piles of coal at the Levin-Richmond terminal figure in.

Richmond residents are beginning to canvass neighbors, monitor pollution, and pressure local politicians to protect them from coal dust that is visible on their cars and homes. They have created a new website, https://ncir.weebly.com/, with information and updates about their organizing efforts.  

Barbara Rhine then called the meeting’s attention to ongoing lawsuits by the cities of Oakland and San Francisco that seek to hold oil companies responsible for the costs of protecting against rising seas. Because the companies promoted fossil fuels as environmentally responsible even after they knew that burning oil, gas, and coal posed serious risk to climate stability, cities on both the West and East Coasts are demanding that the companies pay for new and strengthened infrastructure necessary to protect cities from the consequences of these reckless, profit-seeking deceptions.

In March, Federal District Court Judge William Alsup ordered parties to The People of the State of California v. BP P.L.C. et al to conduct a tutorial on the history of climate change research for his education.

The next hearing — on a motion to dismiss the cities’ case — is scheduled for Thursday, May 24, 2018 at 8am in Judge Alsup’s courtroom, on the 19th floor of the Phillip Burton Federal Building, 450 Golden Gate Avenue (nearest BART station: Civic Center). No Coal in Oakland supporters are encouraged to attend — wearing your NCIO t-shirt if you have one!

Join us!

No Coal in Oakland is always looking for new enthusiasm and energy in Oakland’s ongoing fight against Big Coal! Please drop us a note at nocoalinoakland@gmail.com if you’d like to find out how you can help.