City lacks evidence to block coal shipments, judge finds

City lacks evidence to block coal shipments, judge finds

City lacks evidence to block coal shipments, judge finds

But even without the Oakland ban, "most realists have come to the conclusion that west coast states such as California, Washington and OR simply aren't going to allow a lot of coal exports now OR in the future", says Clarksons Platou analyst Jeremy Sussman.

OBOT's developers - including Phil Tagami, a friend of Governor Jerry Brown - want to haul coal and petroleum coke by train from almost 1,000 miles away in Utah and ship it to Asia through the $250 million facility.

Justin Berton, the mayor's communications director, said the city is "currently reviewing all the options, including appeal". Kalb said the city still has options and the council will consider them with advice from their attorneys. "Oakland's most vulnerable communities have unfairly suffered the burden of pollutants and foul air for too long", said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf in response to the judge's decision.

Tagami did not return an email Tuesday seeking comment.

Two environmental groups, the Sierra Club and San Francisco Baykeeper, joined the city in trying to defend the coal ban.

The ruling is the latest chapter in a dispute that began with the city's attempt to find a developer for a parcel from the old Oakland Army Base just south of the Bay Bridge Toll Plaza. "We continue to stand with the city and its residents, who made the fearless choice to put the health and well-being of the families and children of Oakland above the machinations of Tagami and his corporate partners".

ESA had estimated that OBOT's emissions would exceed state air quality standards for particulate matter 2.5, which the City Council concluded was substantial evidence of substantial danger to health. Chhabria wrote in his decision that the city's case was "riddled with inaccuracies" and "faulty analyses, to the point that no reliable conclusion about health or safety dangers could be drawn from it". Typically though, development agreements lock in the land use regulations that were in place at the time the contract was signed. OBOT sued the city in 2017 to overturn the coal ban.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria said the city failed to put forth a "record" that the handling and storage of coal presented a substantial danger to the public - the threshold the city had to meet to alter the terms of a 2012 development agreement. In fact, Chhabria criticized the expert report commissioned by the city as inadequate and containing errors. That report, drafted by Environmental Science Associates (ESA), described as much as 21 tons of coal dust blowing off trains and the coal terminal each year. But the report never compared this pollution to other sources. "The City was not required to compile a ideal evidentiary record; far from it". "But the gaps and errors in this record are so numerous and serious that they render it virtually useless".

The decision cheered coal proponents while opponents said they would continue to fight for cleaner air. Furthermore, Chhabria said that ESA's methods of calculating this level of pollution were flawed and didn't account for mitigation measures promised by the coal terminal developers.

TLS is owned by Bowie Resource Partners, a company which primarily owns coal mines in Utah, according to Chhabria. But Chhabria was unconvinced. "The lack of existing data about the effectiveness of a new technology like rail vehicle covers is not enough of a reason to assume them away, particularly when the developers have committed to using them", he wrote. "G$3 iven the record before it, the City Council was not even equipped to meaningfully guess how well these controls would mitigate emissions", concluded Chhabria. The judge also criticized the city and its consultant's omission of any consideration of how the Bay Area Air Quality Management District would regulate the coal terminal, saying they only made "fleeting reference" to its powers. "I$3 t is not enough to simply intone that the facility will operate near a child care center and low-income neighborhoods", Chhabria wrote in response to the city's argument that the coal terminal will disproportionately harm Black and Latino children in West Oakland.

"But if these are not the right standards for assessing what makes for "substantial danger" what are?" the judge said.

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