DUST UP OVER COAL

Coal in RailcarYou may have heard about a plan to export coal through Oakland, so let’s start from the beginning.

The Oakland Army Base (OAB) was a key military supply and personnel transit point from 1941 until the Army closed the base in 1993.  In 2003, the Army began transferring the land to the Port of Oakland and the City of Oakland in near equal portions.  Both the port and the city began to entertain development opportunities.

The Port of Oakland, governed by the Tidelands Trust, is restricted to maritime related functions and is developing a logistics and transload center to support their maritime operations.

The City of Oakland, not governed by the same trust, can use the property for any purpose. Through the years, we have heard proposals for movie studios, retail centers, car dealerships and other non-maritime uses. In the end, clear heads prevailed when city officials realized land for seaport operations in the state is limited.  An agreement was reached between the City of Oakland with California Capital and Investment Group (CCIG) to build the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT) specializing in transloading bulk commodities from rail cars to ships.

Enter the conflict…Apparently, there was no restriction in the agreement regarding the kinds of commodities acceptable, and CCIG has accepted a $53M investment from Utah’s Community Impact Fund on behalf of Utah’s coal-producing counties.

When OBOT is complete in 2017, it is expected to handle 9 million tons of bulk commodities per year. Half of that may just be coal…unless the community can make a compelling case that the coal export program is a threat to the health and safety of area residents. Environmental groups say they have plenty of proof to show it would be.