Utah coal miners, Oakland activists featured in Al Jazeera news segment

  • Ms. Margaret Gordon, WOEIP, interviewed by Al Jazeera English (2017-02-03)

On February 3, 2017, Al Jazeera English posted a video segment Global warming fears throw Utah Coal industry into crisis. The segment includes 2016 interview footage of West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project Co-Director Ms. Margaret Gordon, who is also a co-coordinator of No Coal in Oakland. (The segment, also posted to the Al Jazeera English YouTube channel, is embedded below.)

At the opening of the Al Jazeera report, retired coal miner Dennis Ardohain points out names of hundreds of coal miners killed in mine accidents engraved on a monument he helped to build. The commemorated miners include boys as young as thirteen and fourteen years old. Jae Potter, a County Commissioner in Carbon County, Utah, explains that the county’s economy is eighty percent dependent on coal mining and power generation.

While there’s coal left in Utah’s ground, coal-fired power generation for which it has been used over the span of many decades is being phased out. The changing energy economy has led coal mining companies to seek shipping routes to sell coal that will then be burned abroad.

Those routes, the coal barons imagined, would send dirty, coal-laden trains through Oakland, where coal would be transferred from rail cars to ships for transport to Asia. In the process, coal miners would keep their jobs, however dangerous; mine owners, railroads, shipping companies, and coal terminal developers would realize profits … and coal dust would worsen environmental conditions in West Oakland, where communities are already adversely and disproportionately affected by industrial pollution.

The segment describes how community activists and environmentalists worked together to protect Oakland from the dangers and damage inherent in coal storage, handling, and transhipment in and through the city. But, as Gordon insists, opposition to coal in Oakland has never fallen into false dichotomies that pretend there are only two choices: jobs or community health.

Here, in a transcribed excerpt from the news segment, corrected for accuracy, Ms. Margaret Gordon explains what she, WOEIP, and No Coal in Oakland are really after:

The Oakland City Council banned coal [storage]. Still, Gordon sympathizes with the miners in Utah facing economic hard times. “I’m impacted, as you, as well, is impacted. And we have to have a strategy, so we don’t have to be in this quagmire, or this conflict, about who gets the jobs, who don’t have the jobs. How do we share, how do we come find an equitable balance?”

The segment is embedded below. No Coal In Oakland invites you to have a look.