Oakland Council Votes to Ban Coal Handling in City | NBC Bay Area
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Oakland Council Votes to Ban Coal Handling in City

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    The Oakland City Council in a special meeting Monday night voted 7-0 in favor of an ordinance banning the handling and storage of coal in the city, effectively derailing a plan to build a marine terminal that would serve as a gateway for Utah-mined coal heading to Asia. Ian Cull reports. (Published Monday, June 27, 2016)

    The Oakland City Council in a special meeting Monday night voted 7-0 in favor of an ordinance banning the handling and storage of coal in the city, effectively derailing a plan to build a marine terminal that would serve as a gateway for Utah-mined coal heading to Asia.

    The terminal was proposed for West Oakland, among the poorest and most polluted neighborhoods in the region. The council approved a contract in 2012 with California Capital & Investment Group to develop the marine terminal site, but many Oakland city officials said coal was not considered in the environmental review of the project when it was approved.

    Hundreds attended Monday's meeting, with a majority of the speakers agreeing the project would pose pollution problems.

    "These particles are tiny and toxic and pose a serious threat to our air quality," one speaker said.

    "It's exhausting living in West Oakland, just to live, let alone breathe clean air," said another.

    Meanwhile, others argued against the ban, saying the coal would be covered and handled underground, and the project potentially could boost the economy.

    "This business is a business that would create thousands of jobs," one speaker in favor of the project said.

    "It's not about coal; it's about really trying to help people, give them some hope," said another.

    It was the first reading of the ordinance; the second reading will be at the council's regular meeting July 19.

    Monday night's special meeting was scheduled at the request of Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, who released a statement after the vote.

    "I am proud tonight to support environmental justice and public health as we work to create jobs and respect the health and safety of our community," Kaplan said.

    City staff recommended Friday that the council prohibit the transportation and handling of coal, citing an independent study. The city-commissioned study found sufficient evidence that coal would harm residents.

    Representatives of the terminal project said they will likely pursue legal action over the council's decision.

    Bay City News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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