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City Council Action On Coal

May 3, 2016 @ 5:30 pm - 10:30 pm

Please show up for the next chapter in the campaign to keep coal out of Oakland!  On Tuesday, May 3, the City Council will be voting whether to hire Environmental Science Associates to review and synthesize the extensive evidence regarding the health and safety dangers of coal.

It is time for the City Council to set a date to vote on the ordinance banning coal. They have promised this vote before the summer recess, but this may not be possible within the timetable ESA proposes.  Let’s insist that the City Council put the vote for the ordinance on their calendar. We have had more than enough delays in this process!

The proposed contract with ESA does not include any public health experts or reflect any public health expertise. The Council wants a review of the evidence in order to substantiate an ordinance banning coal from OBOT, the bulk marine terminal to be built at the former Oakland Army Base. They should have hired public health experts for this task. The ordinance requires findings that coal would place residents and workers “in a condition substantially dangerous to their health or safety.” The absence of public health experts in the review process is a critical deficiency.

No Coal in Oakland pushed the City to hire public health experts rather than ESA. But even if the City does hire ESA, an independent panel of civic-minded public health experts will be reviewing the evidence, preparing their own report and correcting any inadequacies or inaccuracies in the report from ESA. Nationally-respected public health experts in and close to Oakland have formed a panel to do this work at no cost to the City.

At the council meeting, speakers can support the independent panel and criticize the City for not hiring such experts themselves.


The initial proposal from ESA was strongly criticized by No Coal in Oakland and allies because it was expensive and time consuming, and because ESA has frequently minimized public health concerns, most recently in the Environmental Impact Report they wrote for the Valero refinery in Benicia, which was widely criticized in a campaign against refinery expansion that is still going on.

In response to our concerns, the city asked ESA to modify their proposal for a shorter and less expensive review. We criticized this scope of work because it did not include any public health experts.

On April 14, public health experts, led by Health Impact Partners (HIP), submitted to city officials an outline of a proposal to do their own review of the evidence. Based in downtown Oakland, HIP is a national leader in the field of health impact assessment. They proposed to work with PSE Healthy Energy, an Oakland-based energy science and policy institute, and to create a panel to review their work, consisting of Bay Area public health experts with a variety of backgrounds, including environmental health (air quality, water quality and noise), environmental justice, occupational health and medicine, and epidemiology.

The City rejected this extremely thoughtful proposal.

Given this response, the public health experts decided to create their own independent panel. This group has already begun to meet and review the evidence submitted on and after September 21. They will write a report substantiating the danger to health and safety, and will be prepared to critique any inadequacies and inaccuracies in the ESA report.

There was some discussion by city officials of the possibility of hiring one public health expert on a fee-for-service basis. However, this offer stalled. After more than a week, there was no response to his effort to contact the City to discuss the possible role he could play. Given this impasse, we understand that the organizers of the independent panel have decided to move forward on their own. Time is short and the process cannot wait.

As a result, at this point we are not asking the City to hire any public health experts. This essential review will be done by the experts who have stepped forward on their own to protect the health and safety of Oakland residents. We appreciate their initiative and will be supporting them to do this essential work.


The public can speak on City Council agenda items, although each speaker gets only one minute. It is possible for others to “cede time” to allow a speaker an additional couple of minutes. We encourage our supporters to sign up to speak and cede time at the meeting.

Use this link:


On the form enter your name, the date of 5/3/16, ‘13’ in the “Item Number,” ‘City Council’ as the choice for “Comm/CouncilName.”

You can indicate you wish to speak, name a person to whom you will cede your time or leave this blank. You can always cede time at the council meeting if you have submitted this form.

After entering your speaker card form, you will get a confirmation number. Bring this with you to the meeting.

Note that the lot behind City Hall on Clay Street has free parking after 4:30 p.m. on City Council meeting nights.



May 3, 2016
5:30 pm - 10:30 pm


Oakland City Hall
1 Frank Ogawa Plaza
Oakland , CA 94612 United States
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