Citing health and environmental threats posed by increased coal shipments in and out of California, Senator Loni Hancock on Friday introduced four proposed laws to restrict exports of the pollution-inducing fuel source.
“I was shocked when I first learned that a development project on the former Oakland Army Base would export millions of tons of coal to China and other countries,” said Hancock during a press release at her district office in downtown Oakland.
“As the state senator for this area, I cannot sit by while the residents of West Oakland face their own Keystone Pipeline. Truth is, the proposed coal depot is so problematic that I believe it warrants a multi-bill response,” said Hancock.
Noting that the City of Oakland is debating a large publicly funded project for exporting coal, Hancock (D-Oakland) said she felt compelled to introduce legislation to “close loopholes in the law and ensure that other cities will not face similar problems in the future,” according to a press release from the senator’s office.
Joining Hancock in supporting her bills were environmentalists, labor leaders, community activists and Kevin De León, Senate Pro Tem of the California Senate and author of last year’s measure bill to fight global warming, Senate Bill 350.
“Continuing to invest in coal is a bad bet for Oakland,” De León said in a statement. “We can certainly find better uses of limited public funds than to invest in a dying industry that brings a host of public health and environmental drawbacks.”
Other speakers in support of Hancock’s bills included Derrick Muhammad, a local labor leader and treasurer for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU Local 10), Nate Henderson, an Oakland high school student with the New Voices Are Rising Project of the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment, and Margaret Gordon, a community organizer with the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project.
According to the senator’s press release, “Each cited environmental concerns and a seeming blind eye toward industries that bill themselves as ‘job creators’ with apparent disregard to the impact on the health and well-being of residents, workers and the environment.”
“For a worker who would be handling coal every day, the proposal to bring coal in to Oakland is a drastic and unhealthy situation,” Muhammad said. “Coal export poses substantial dangers to workers at the site and the coal dust that would be produced also poses a serious danger to workers.”
Margaret Gordon said the nine million tons of coal each year that would be brought through Oakland would have a negative impact on the city, the region, the state and the far West.
“Although Sen. Hancock’s bills cannot retroactively fix the situation in Oakland, I am glad that they bring light to the negative impact that coal would have in our lives,” Gordon said.
Hancock said two of her bills specifically take on the proposed terminal in Oakland. The other two add additional restrictions on the transportation of coal through California.
SB 1277 declares that the transportation of coal through West Oakland “would present a clear and present danger to the health and safety of Oakland residents as well as the workers that would handle the coal.” This bill also prohibits the shipment of coal through the Oakland facility, which has been paid, in part for, with state funds.
SB 1278 would require an environmental impact review from any public agency that has authority in approving any portion of a project relating to the shipment of coal through Oakland.
On a state level, SB 1279 would prohibit the use of public funds to build or operate any port that exports coal from California. It also applies to any port near disadvantaged communities.
SB 1280 requires port facilities that ship bulk commodities and receive state funds to prohibit coal shipments or fully mitigate the green-house gas emissions associated with the combustion of the coal.
“The City of Oakland needs to act on its own to prohibit shipping coal and protect the community,” Hancock said, emphasizing that the bills would not work retroactively.
“There is a provision in the development contract that allows the city to consider the health and safety of the surrounding community and the workers. I urge the City Council to use its authority and prohibit coal,” said Hancock.
“Frankly, it’s not acceptable to have the City of Oakland build a large new facility to export coal to places like China where people often must cover their faces or stay inside to avoid breathing dirty air,” she said.