State Of Oakland’s Campaign Against a Waterfront Coal Terminal

Yard Sign, Keep Coal Out of Oakland, 2023

Yard Sign, Keep Coal Out of Oakland, 2023

 

Since 2015, developers have been angling to build a coal export terminal near the Bay Bridge toll plaza, on Oakland’s waterfront. The City of Oakland and the would-be coal developers brought lawsuits against each other in 2018, leading to a bench trial in California State Superior Court that began on July 10, 2023. This page will be updated with info on the trial & other key developments.

A little background:

At the terminal, coal would be transferred off trains coming from mines in Utah, then loaded onto ships that would transport it to Asia. Storage and handling coal at the terminal would generate and spread toxic dust particles known to cause serious health impacts. West Oaklanders, who live in neighborhoods adjacent to the proposed terminal, would suffer the worst of these effects, in addition to adverse health impacts to which they are already exposed due to pollution from the Port of Oakland and nearby freeways. 

Despite unanimous opposition of the City Council in 2016, and opposition of a supermajority of Oaklanders surveyed by the Sierra Club and then-State-Senator Loni Hancock, developers have never given up their ambition and threat to build a coal export terminal in Oakland.

In the 2023 lawsuit, the City of Oakland defended its 2018 decision to terminate the developers’ lease based on developers’ failure to meet contractual milestones. In the same lawsuit, developers attempted to reinstate their lease and win a multi-million-dollar damage claim against Oakland, arguing that the City is to blame for their missed deadlines. Settlement talks were ongoing prior to the start of the trial.

Developers promoted their latest, wholly inadequate settlement offer through a high-priced lobbyist, who spread disinformation intended to frighten the City into accepting terms that would dramatically reduce developers’ lease payments to the City while still leaving loopholes allowing them to wriggle out of their proposed “no-coal” promises. Their negotiating position suggested that developers aim to line their own pockets while stabbing the City in the back, padding their profits without any intention to take their filthy, toxic coal terminal off the table.  

Coal opponents have been carefully correcting developers’ misinformation, working to help every Oaklander – including elected officials in the City’s government – understand that continuing to debunk developers’ cynical lies and and continuing to stand firm against their inflated threats is the only way to keep coal out of Oakland, and thus stave off a dire threat to the health of tens of thousands in West Oakland and beyond. This is also the path to doing our community’s part to defend the planet against severe environmental damage caused by continued mining, transport, and consumption of coal.

You can read a summary of the years-long campaign to keep Oakland from becoming a coal export hub at https://nocoalinoakland.info/our-campaign/. Click through from the summary to detailed background posts wherever you want to learn more. An overview page about the trial provides more context and links to key briefs, decisions, and other documents related to the lawsuit.

As of early February 2024, Judge Noël Wise ruled that the City of Oakland wrongly terminated the developers’ lease, but denied the developers’ claims for $159.6 million in damages, mostly for “lost profits,” claims that Judge Wise determined were “speculative and unreliable.” The City of Oakland has indicated its intent to appeal Judge Wise’s decision on validity of the lease termination; details on the grounds for the City’s appeal will emerge when appeal briefs are filed.

 


This page will be updated as major developments occur. Last update: 02/04/2024


 

Yard signs appearing across Oakland in Summer 2023 were conceived and distributed by a coalition of organizations including: No Coal in Oakland, Youth vs. Apocalypse, the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, Sierra Club, SF Baykeeper, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, West Oakland Neighbors, 350 Bay Area, the Interfaith Council of Alameda County, Faith in Action, and East Bay Physicians for Social Responsibility. Yard sign graphic by Dani Zacky, Sierra Club.

If you’d like a sign for your yard or to get more involved, let us know at https://nocoalinoakland.info/contact/ or write to NoCoalInOakland-at-gmail-dot-com.