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Oakland's Ban on Coal Shipments Overturned by Judge

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Aerial view of the port of Oakland, CA. Robert Campbell / U.S. Army Corps of Engineers / CC BY-SA 3.0

A federal judge Tuesday struck down the city of Oakland's ban on coal shipments through a planned export terminal.

U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria ridiculed the city for violating its contract with the developer of the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal in its 2016 ban, writing in his opinion that there is no "substantial evidence" that coal shipments "would pose a substantial health or safety danger" to Oakland residents.


"This is a fight for environmental justice and equity," Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a statement. "Oakland's most vulnerable communities have unfairly suffered the burden of pollutants and foul air for too long." The terminal's developers plan to source coal from the Powder River Basin region to store in Oakland before shipping overseas, and the judge's ruling was celebrated by local officials in coal-producing towns in Wyoming and Utah.

As reported by Bloomberg:

As demand for coal in the U.S. declines, miners depend increasingly on overseas markets. Yet Wyoming and Montana's Powder River Basin, home to the nation's largest reserves, is largely cut off from the world market without West Coast ports.

Oakland is among several terminals in California and the Pacific Northwest that environmentalists have pushed to close to miners in an effort to keep U.S. coal off the international market. Reversing the ban could increase exports by as much as 19 percent, according to the Sierra Club.

For a deeper dive:

San Francisco Chronicle, Salt Lake Tribune, KQED, AP, Bloomberg, Pacific Standard

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