AG Becerra Files Brief Supporting Oakland’s Right to Protect Residents from Coal Transport Pollution

SACRAMENTO, Dec. 20, 2018 — California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the City of Oakland’s appeal to defend its ordinance prohibiting the storage and handling of coal at the Oakland Bulk Oversized Terminal (Terminal). Located along the city’s waterfront in West Oakland, the Terminal is under development with plans to transport millions of tons of coal annually by rail and water. The City of Oakland passed the ordinance in July 2016, in response to concerns about the health and safety impacts of handling and transporting coal. The ordinance would protect the residents in nearby West Oakland, a vibrant and proud community of color with a long and productive history in the Bay Area. The pollution from the coal project would disproportionately impact this community, which is already pollution-burdened. The city of Oakland is appealing a lower court decision granting a challenge to the ordinance by the developer of the terminal, Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal, LLC.

“The California Department of Justice stands by the City of Oakland, which took an important step to protect its residents,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The transportation of coal from the terminal would disproportionately hurt communities of color already burdened by pollution and its consequent health effects, such as asthma and cancer. We are committed to advancing environmental justice wherever possible in our state.”

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In the amicus brief, Attorney General Becerra argues that:

  • Oakland properly invoked regulatory powers to protect the health and welfare of Oakland residents;
  • Oakland had a right under its contract with the developer to apply new regulations to protect against health and safety risks;
  • Particulate matter from the project poses significant risks to residents of Oakland; and
  • West Oakland residents are already overburdened by pollution, and the handling and storage of coal would increase their pollution burden.

If the ordinance is invalidated, millions of tons of coal will be transported from Utah to Oakland annually by train and then shipped to countries around the world. Pollution from coal dust would impact communities residing near the Terminal that are already designated by CalEPA and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District as being disproportionately burdened by, and vulnerable to, multiple sources of air and other pollution, and that have higher than average rates of asthma and cancer.

A copy of the brief can be found here.