NCIO responds to Tagami profile in EB Express

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In December 2019, the East Bay Express ran a cover-feature profile of would be coal-developer Phil Tagami (“Phil Tagami is Not Backing Down,” East Bay Express, December 10, 2019). Over the signature of of No Coal in Oakland’s coordinating committee member Ann Harvey, who identified her affiliation with our ongoing campaign, NCIO responded a few days after the article ran (the letter was drafted collaboratively by several members of NCIO’s coordinating committee). Though a number of letters-to-the-editor were published by the paper in response to the profile, the EB Express did not publish our letter.

No Coal in Oakland is therefore running its letter here, for the record:


Phil Tagami’s recent interview is part of a deceptive public relations campaign to promote a sordid plot to ship Utah coal through Oakland’s waterfront (“Phil Tagami is Not Backing Down,” Dec 10, 2019). Never mind the heart and lung disease, diabetes, preterm births, and other life-threatening health impacts that West Oakland residents would suffer if Tagami and his coal industry tenants had their way. Never mind the catastrophic consequences of their determination to sacrifice our only planet’s future in exchange for a brief period of profit before their inevitable bankruptcy.

Tagami still thinks Oaklanders will fall for fantasy job promises: by his own forecast, the bulk terminal will produce only 60 permanent full-time jobs, reserved for members of the ILWU.  Tagami shows his interviewer a 2013 pie chart that includes coal in the bulk terminal’s commodity stream — then claims that in 2014, the following year, he “was not then aware of his tenants’ intentions” to ship coal. The founder of the coal company behind all of this, now Tagami’s new tenant, John Siegel, in cahoots with lobbyist Greg McConnell, is currently pitching a scam in which they claim shipping millions of tons of coal in the future is a “reduction” in coal shipments even though none at all is being shipped through Oakland today. Could even Donald Trump could get away with that sort of fake arithmetic?

Tagami says he “views the Sierra Club as [the] main deterrent to Oakland officials sitting down with him and talking.”  In fact, a broad and diverse coalition of local community activists, faith leaders, health professionals, doctors and scientists, labor unions, and other Oakland citizens joined together in the fight against coal. Oakland’s then State Senator Loni Hancock wrote in a Spring 2016 newsletter, “To date, more than 5,000 constituents have sent back their responses, and the results are clear: … 92 percent of respondents of the six-question survey oppose a pending Oakland coal terminal.

The headline of this month’s Express feature about the developer asserts that “Phil Tagami is Not Backing Down.” But neither will coal’s diverse and steadfast opponents. Speaking for homegrown organizers active in No Coal in Oakland, I can assure Tagami that the vast majority of Oakland’s citizens are fully and irrevocably committed to preventing the shipment of coal through our vital city.

Ann Harvey, No Coal in Oakland