Category: Environment

Community Proposes Alternatives to E. 12th Street Luxury Tower

Neighbors submit their suggestions for what should be constructed on the East 12th Street parcel at the Wish List event hosted by the Eastlake United for Justice neighborhood coalition on Sunday. Photo by Luke Newton.

Neighbors submit their suggestions for what should be constructed on the East 12th Street parcel at the Wish List event hosted by the Eastlake United for Justice neighborhood coalition. Photo by Luke Newton.

By Tulio Ospina

Nearly 200 community members attended the East 12th Street Wish List planning event in front of the Kaiser Convention Center on Sunday to collectively brainstorm proposal ideas for how the East 12th Street parcel could be utilized.

The event, held Sunday, Aug. 23, was hosted by Eastlake United for Justice, a group of neighbors from the East 12th Street community who led the fight against the construction of a luxury apartment tower by Lake Merritt that the Oakland City Council was poised to approve in July.

According to the group’s Facebook page, the purpose of the event was to “discuss with the community how the prime piece of public land can best be used for public good.” The gathering featured live performances, served food and had activities for all ages.

D. Alwan, a member of Eastlake’s Affordable Housing and Anti-Gentrification Committee, programmed the Imagine & Design tent, where community members were invited to provide feedback on the city’s management of certain issues and give suggestions for how the city could improve its services to residents.

“We asked people about eight questions for feedback around what they loved about Oakland and concerns they have, the kinds of businesses and services that folks want and the kind of community spaces people need,” said Alwan.

The neighborhood organization collected nearly 400 responses, with plans to share them publicly.

“These few hundred responses are the first time that the community’s feedback has been asked for in a proactive way,” she said. “The first time that community members were invited to come and talk and share and imagine.”

According to Alwan, issues of housing affordability and health were the most prevalent concerns among neighbors.

In terms of criticisms, community members overwhelmingly cited the city “prioritizing developers over its constituents” and its low-income housing communities.

Meanwhile, Alwan counted nearly 70 proposal ideas from community members for what could be constructed on the East 12th Street parcel.

In general, most proposal ideas were presenting affordable housing, safe passage for pedestrians from the lake to the site, a place for green space for community gardens and public housing for elderly folks, young children and immigrant families, said Alwan.

The next goals for Eastlake United for Justice are to transcribe the proposals and make visual representations that will be available to developers and, eventually, the city to review.

“The ideal situation is that a proposal will come out of this,” said Alwan. “We’re up against the city’s lack of will for a participatory process. No city representative attended the planning process and there have been no inquiries about what the feedback was,” she said.

At Sunday’s event, two members of the Oakland Unified School District announced their plan to submit a proposal to build affordable teacher housing on the East 12th Street site and to build new facilities for Dewey High School.

“Whoever gets the chance to move forward with their proposal, I very strongly encourage them to work with the community to fulfill the public’s desires,” said Alwan.

“This is public land being paid for by tax-payer dollars and the community should be in a leadership position to determine its outcome.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 27, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Nurses Back Bernie Sanders for President

Candidate calls for an end to racism and mass incarceration and for jobs and free education

Senator Bernie Sanders spoke Monday, Aug. 10 at a rally at the headquarters of National Nurses United (NNU), where he received the union's endorsement for the Democratic presidential nomination. Standing next to Sanders is Deborah Burger, RN, NNU co-president. Photo by Ken Epstien.

Senator Bernie Sanders spoke Monday, Aug. 10 at a rally in Oakland at the headquarters of National Nurses United (NNU), where he received the union’s endorsement for the Democratic presidential nomination. Standing next to Sanders is Deborah Burger, RN, NNU co-president. Photo by Ken Epstien.

 By Ken Epstein

Senator Bernie Sanders was in Oakland this week, where he won the endorsement of the 185,000-member National Nurses Union (NNU), adding serious momentum to his low-budget, grassroots campaign to win the Democratic presidential nomination that is becoming an ever more serious challenge to frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

Sanders spoke Monday to a wildly enthusiastic crowd at the downtown Oakland national headquarters of the NNU.

“I have spent my career fighting for something that I consider to be a human right. That human right is health care. And let me say loudly and clearly – health care is a right of all people, not a privilege,” said Sanders.

“The time has come for us to end the international embarrassment of the United States of America, our great country, being the only major country on earth that does not guarantee healthcare to all people as a right,” he said. “And together – with your help – we are going to end that embarrassment.”

He called for raising taxes on bankers, financiers and corporations.

“Not only would a tax on Wall Street speculation provide us with the revenue that we need to make a college education tuition free, it would also reduce speculation and encourage Wall Street to invest in the job-creating productive economy,” said Sanders.

As hundreds listened to and cheered his remarks in Oakland, groups of nurses around the country watched him live on television monitors and asked the candidate questions.

The union is composed mostly of women, registered nurses. Over the years, the organization has gained a reputation for tough and politically savvy organizing and has captured national attention in battles over the future of corporate healthcare and the inadequate medical industry response to the Ebola threat.

Sanders also denounced racism and mass incarceration and called for good paying jobs and free education at all public universities to allow people to enter the middle class – to end economic disparities.

Black Lives Matter and other activists have criticized Sanders for his lack of a program to end racial injustice, and he elaborated his position at the nurses’ rally.

“When we talk about creating a new America, it is to end racism,” he said, adding that Sandra Bland would not have been dragged out of her car and arrested in Texas if she had been white.

“Shamefully, the U.S. has more people in jail than any other country on earth,” he said, and the rate of incarceration “is disproportionately higher for African Americans and Hispanics.”

“We need a criminal justice justice system (in which) police departments do not look like military occupiers,” he said. “We need police officers to wear cameras. When a police officer commits a crime, that officer must be held accountable.”

“We need to end (mandatory) minimum sentencing for nonviolent crimes,” he continued.

“When people go to jail, we need to provide a path back into society,” said Sanders. “You’re not going to have that when people leave jail without jobs, without education and in some cases, without the mental health counseling they need.”

“If you check my record, there is no candidate running for president of the United States who will be stronger fighting institutional racism and in reforming a broken criminal justice system – period,” he said.

Last Saturday, 15,000 people turned out to hear Sanders speak in Seattle. About 28,000 attended a rally Sunday in Portland, and 27,500 stood in a line that stretched for blocks to hear him speak Monday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.

RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of NNU, explained why her union decided to endorse Sanders and throw the weight of thousands of the NNU’s grassroots activists into his campaign.

“He says what he means, and that is reflected in his work,” she said. “Nurses know Senator Sanders is a warrior.”

In response to those who might have expected a union with a large number of women leaders to back Hillary Clinton for president, DeMoro said, “I’d love to break the glass ceiling, but we ‘d love more to break the stranglehold of the billionaire class.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 14, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Eastlake Community Group Says “Fight Continues” to Stop E. 12th Street Luxury Tower

A coalition of protesters opposing the E. 12th Street luxury tower shut down the Oakland City Council meeting on May 4. Photo courtesy of ABC7

A coalition of protesters opposing the E. 12th Street luxury tower shut down the Oakland City Council meeting on May 4. Photo courtesy of ABC7.

By Ken Epstein

A group of neighbors who are leading the fight against the luxury apartment tower by Lake Merritt – Eastlake United for Justice – is saying it is determined to keep public pressure on the City Council to ensure that “they are making a is a sincere effort to secure low-uncome affordable housing on E. 12th St.”

Members of the Eastlake group said they were heartened by the city’s decision to issue a “Notice of Intent and Offer to Convey Property,” dated July 14, which implies that the city “has decided to comply with the law and put the parcel back out to bid, as the community has demanded from the very beginning,” according to the East Lake group’s media release.

But at the same time, “the fight continues,” the news release said, because they find a number of reasons for concern that the city is not seriously seeking affordable housing proposals to develop the parcel.

Complicating the process, the new notice is not a formal “Request for Proposals,” the usual way the city seeks applicants to purchase or lease property.

In addition, the press release said, “The city’s notice to developers does not mention an affordable housing requirement or priority. It gives just 60 days for proposals to be developed and submitted. And the notice was quietly distributed to a very limited list of agencies including very few housing developers and a handful of agencies that do not develop housing

“This looks like an attempt to comply with the bare minimum of the law to avoid a lawsuit, then hand the parcel back to UrbanCore for a luxury tower,” the news release said.

Asked about the new offer and the still existing proposed agreement with UrbanCore, Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney told the Post on Wednesday, “I have no comment on this project.

According to Councilmember Abel Guillon, who represents the district where the proposed project would be built, “The 60-day notice is not a cover for anything. It is merely an extra step of due diligence,”

He added: “I think the city’s practice is to consider all proposals, solicited and unsolicited.  The next step will depend on the nature of any responses the city receives to the notice.”

Guillen said the City Administrator and City Attorney will be reporting back to the council on the. parcel and its potential development.

Also questioned about the new project and why he city had not issued an RFPP was Patrick Lane, city Development/Redevelopment Program Manager of the Department of Economic and Workforce Development.

“It is what it is,” Lane told the Post. “It is letting people know there is an option for the site.”

He said the contract withi UrbanCore had not been passed by the City Council because the final vote had been postponed.

Lane said he had referred the Post’s questions to the City Attorney last week but had not received a reply.

The Post had asked: How will offers be prioritized? Will offers to build affordable housing be privileged? What is the city going to do with the agreement with UrbanCore , which was already approved by council at the first of two meetings?

Will UrbanCore have a priority for consideration under this notice?

The city had sent out its new offer to 18 agencies including the CA State Parks Department, AC Transit, P.G.& E., CALTRANS, the Oakland Unified School District , the East Bay Regional Parks District., Port of Oakland , BART and East Bay Municipal Utilities District.

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 25, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Health Dangers of Coal Spark Local Debate

Operators at the Spring Creek Mine near Decker, Mont., apply a topper agent as rail cars are loaded with coal to reduce the amount of dust and coal lost during transportation.Photo courtesy of Jo Dee Black, Great Falls Mont.Tribune

Operators at the Spring Creek Mine near Decker, Mont., apply a topper agent as rail cars are loaded with coal to reduce the amount of dust and coal lost during transportation.Photo courtesy of Jo Dee Black, Great Falls Mont.Tribune.

By Tulio Ospina

As hundreds rallied at Oakland City Hall Tuesday protesting possible coal shipments through the developing Oakland Army Base, health concerns were one of the key issues that people raised.

In particular, the effects of exporting 5 million tons of coal per year on the respiratory health of West Oakland residents—who already suffer from some of the highest asthma rates in Alameda County—have been at the forefront of the debate.

According to experts, Alameda County has the third highest asthma-related hospitalization rates of all California counties and 24 percent of children in West Oakland suffer from asthma.

This health disparity has been mostly attributed to a combination of urban poverty, lack of routine healthcare and diesel pollution caused by constant cargo ship and truck traffic.

Dan Jaffe, professor of atmospheric and environmental chemistry at the University of Washington-Bothell, says that after years of studying the impacts of coal in the atmosphere, he believes there are environmental reasons to be concerned.

Regardless of whether coal dust is ever exposed to California air, the west coast of the U.S. would be contributing to its own air and sea pollution by shipping coal to Asia, where dust, ozone smog and mercury would be carried over on westerly winds.

“Pollutants can be transported in 7 to 10 days at high elevations and then touch down here in the US to contribute to the pollution that we breathe,” said Jaffe. “The amount of ozone coming from Asia can cause cities to go beyond their own ozone standards.”

Jaffe also claims that the majority of human-produced mercury found in seafood consumed by the United States comes from Asian coal burning.

The Sierra Club, a leader in the anti-coal fight, has taken a strong position on the carbon fuel’s health dangers.

“Transporting the coal via rail car to the port will increase train traffic and pollution in an area already overburdened by bad air,” according to a press release from the Sierra Club’s Bay Area chapter.

“Each open-top rail car of coal can lose up to one ton of dust between the mines and the port, resulting in the release of 60,000 pounds of toxic fine particulate matter in communities near the rails,” the press release said.

According to Brian Beveridge, co-director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), coal dust contains carcinogen and is most likely the cause of black lung and can lead to respiratory ailments such as asthma and lung cancer.

However, supporters of a coal deal claim shipping coal out of Oakland will not harm residents or workers, citing proposals to transport the coal in sealed cars and load cargo ships in ways that limit coal particles being released into the air.

In a statement released Thursday, Oakland Army Base developer Phil Tagami emphasized that no commitment has been made yet to transport any particular commodity through the bulk export terminal.

Tagami said that with whatever commodity shipped through Oakland, all rail transport “will occur utilizing newly designed covered rail cars and other measures to minimize and potentially eliminate fugitive dust issues.”

Dr. Washington Burns, executive director of the Prescott-Joseph Center and founder of the mobile asthma clinic, called the Breathmobile, says he is neutral on passing coal through Oakland but supports the export if the promised physical protections are fully implemented.

(To read Phil Tagami’s July 23 statement, go to http://postnewsgroup.com/blog/2015/07/23/op-ed-developer-phil-tagami-responds-debate-coal-transport-army-base/)

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 19, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

“No Coal, No Way,” Say Protesters

Protesters rally to stop the coal shipments from Utah to the Oakland Army Base, for export to Asia. Photo courtes of Oakland Elects.

Protesters rally to stop the coal shipments from Utah to the Oakland Army Base, for export to Asia. Photo courtes of Oakland Elects.

By Ashley Chambers

A coalition of environmental groups, concerned residents and local leaders held a rally on the steps of City Hall Tuesday demanding, “No coal in Oakland,” opposing a potential project to export the fossil fuel from the Oakland Army Base.

“When City Council Oakland made plans to boost our economy for the public benefit, then public health and safety must be a primary factor in these decisions,” said Margaret Gordon, co-founder of West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), speaking at the protest.

“For all the citizens of Oakland, we hope that our public officials will stand by this policy and put an end to this dirty, backroom deal,” she said.

The plan to bring coal to Oakland has become public in the last few months, after Phil Tagami’s California Capital Investment Group (CCIG) became involved in a $53 million investment with four Utah counties with the potential of transporting coal by train and exporting up to 5 million tons of the commodity from a terminal at the Oakland Army Base.

Citing dire health and environmental risks to West Oakland and other parts of the city, local environmental groups including the Sierra Club, WOEIP, 350 Bay Area, and Communities for a Better Environment have called for keeping fossil fuels out of Oakland.

Youth added their voices to the protest, talking about the damaging impacts a coal terminal on already overburdened communities.

“Not all of us have the resources to live a healthy life, but exporting this coal in the city is allowing pollution to happen, making it difficult for a future,” said Allyson Dinh, 16, with the Summer Climate Justice Leadership Academy, speaking at Tuesday’s rally.

“The color of our skin, where we live or how much we make should not dictate if we get to live a long, healthy lifestyle,” she said. “I deserve to live better, we all do.”

Community members called on the City Council and the mayor to do everything in their power to stop the coal terminal.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 24, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Pope Francis Returns to South America, Calling for Climate Justice for the World’s Poor

He says government should include indigenous groups, people of African descent, women in decision-making

Pope Francis arrives in Ecuador. Photo courtesy of the Guardian

Pope Francis arrives in Ecuador. Photo courtesy of the Guardian

By Tulio Ospina

Pope Francis arrived in Ecuador on Sunday, visiting his home continent for a three-country tour that includes Bolivia and Paraguay.

The pope’s visit to Quito—Ecuador’s capital city—attracted over one million people who traveled from across the country and camped out overnight to get a good view of the pontiff.

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, right, welcomes Pope Francis upon his arrival at Quito Airport, Ecuador, Sunday, July 5. Photo courtesy of Fox News

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa, right, welcomes Pope Francis upon his arrival at Quito Airport, Ecuador, Sunday, July 5. Photo courtesy of Fox News

The pope, who is Argentinian, had been expected to address the exploitation of the Amazon—the planet’s most ecologically important rainforest—following the release of his extensive encyclical on the environment.

The encyclical reveals his deep scientific, economic and social knowledge surrounding the causes and effects of “the harm we have inflicted on [the planet] by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.”

In accordance with Francis’ concern for the poor, the encyclical asserts that while human-induced global warming—based on “a very solid scientific consensus”—concerns all people, “its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries” and the world’s neediest populations.

Pope visits nursing home in Quito, Ecuador. Photo courtesy of the New York Times

Pope visits nursing home in Quito, Ecuador. Photo courtesy of  the Associated Press.

Known informally as “the pope of the poor,” his visit to the region has focused on a message that uplifts family values, communal love and unity.

“The people of Ecuador are beyond excited and pleased, the majority of them being Catholic,” said Azalia Cruz, a Post correspondent in Quito. “In Quito, it was extremely cold, and it was raining a lot when he arrived. Despite this, thousands of people gathered to greet the Pope.”

In one of Latin America’s oldest Catholic churches, Francis pressed a variety of issues,

Addressing ecological concerns, he reminded the Ecuadorean people that “when exploiting Ecuador’s natural resources, the focus should not be on instant gratification” and that appropriate environmental caution and gratitude must be paid when managing these resources.

“Groups of environmentalists opposing petroleum extraction in the Amazonian Yasuní National Park were trying to get a letter to the pope to get a statement out of him,” said Cruz.

These groups have come together in protest to Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa’s intention to open the park’s untouched interior for oil extraction, which will strongly affect the lives of the region’s indigenous tribes and the environment around them, as it has in the past.

Over many years, Ecuador and it’s peasant and indigenous populations have been involved in ongoing international legal battles with Chevron, accusing the oil company of deliberately dumping more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater and 17 million gallons of crude oil and leaving behind hundreds of open pits filled with hazardous waste.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, July 12, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

 

 

Mayor Says No to Coal

“We will not have coal shipped through our city,” Says Schaff

Environmental activists rally recently in front of Oakland Army Base developer Phil Tagami ‘s office in Frank Ogawa Plaza. Photo courtesy of Occupy Oakland.

Environmental activists rallied recently in front of Oakland Army Base developer Phil Tagami ‘s office in Frank Ogawa Plaza. Photo courtesy of Occupy Oakland.

 By Tulio Ospina

In a sharp email exchange, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has blasted local developer Phil Tagami for moving ahead with a deal to export coal out of the former Oakland Army Base.

Libby Schaff

Libby Schaff

The digital dispute was documented in an email exchange that the Sierra Club obtained through a Public Records Act request.

In 2013, Tagami had said use of the Army Base to bring coal to Oakland by rail and ship it abroad was the farthest thing from his mind. He said that his company, California Capital and Investment Group (CCIG), had “no interest or involvement in the pursuit of coal-related operations at the former Oakland Army Base.”

But that was then.

Schaaf wrote in an email to Tagami, dated May 11, that she was “extremely disappointed to once again hear” mention of the “possibility of shipping coal into Oakland” during a community breakfast.

Phil Tagami

Phil Tagami

“Stop it immediately,” Schaaf wrote. “You have been awarded the privilege and opportunity of a lifetime to develop this unique piece of land. You must respect the owner and public’s decree that we will not have coal shipped through our city.”

In response to the mayor’s email, Tagami explained that by entering into a binding contract with Terminal and Logistics Solutions (TLS), he and the city had agreed to “a complete transfer of our rights and obligations with respect to the terminal operations under the ground lease.”

Additionally, he states the scope of the binding deal “is not driven or defined by any single commodity, product, or good in transit,” claiming that the city cannot legally restrict what products flow through the rail terminal development.

What is essential to the new facility’s financial and legal viability, said Tagami, is “the ability to accommodate the full universe of bulk goods,” which includes coal.

Tagami claims that the binding legal contract signed by the city gives it no control over what commodities can be shipped. But according to a number of community members, under the contract’s “Regulation for Health and Safety” clause, the city can apply regulations for health-related reasons.

Sierra Club image

Sierra Club campaign

The clause states that the city has the right to apply regulations at any time after the agreement’s adoption if failure to do so “would place existing or future occupants or users of the project, adjacent neighbors, or any portion thereof, or all of them, in a condition substantially dangerous to their health or safety.”

According to Brian Beveridge, co-director of the West Oakland Environment Indicators Project (WOEIP) and an West Oakland resident, there is ample evidence that shipping coal through Oakland would be detrimental to residents’ health.

“Coal dust is related to diesel pollution and the burning of fossil fuels,” said Beveridge. “It contains carcinogens and is likely the cause of black lung disease and asthma.”

“The whole community’s health is at stake,” he said. “Our advances in cleaning air in West Oakland are at stake. The city’s pride in calling itself a green city is at stake.”

Community observers have also criticized the city’s lack of transparency in negotiations with developers of city land. The examples, they say, include the Oakland Army Base and sale of the parcel at Lake Merritt and East 12th Street.

“It’s completely in line with all these other development deals happening behind closed doors where the public is being cut out of the conversation,” said Jess Dervin-Ackerman of the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Area chapter.

“All these proposals are on city-owned land and should be used for community benefits. What City Council is doing is just letting developers have at it.”

“We’re ready to back Mayor Schaaf if she’s ready to stand up and say ‘no’ to coal,” said Beveridge. “Oakland is unanimously opposed to shipping coal to or out of our city.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 10, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Residents Support Water Cutbacks But Worry About Rate increases

east-bay-municipal-utility-district-photo4

By Nikolas Zelinski

A recent Field poll indicates that 65 percent of Californians support Gov. Jerry Brown’s mandatory 25 percent reduction of water use in urban areas.

At the same time, seven out of 10 homeowners say that it would be a “serious problem” if their water bill increased by 15 to 25 percent.

East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) customers have already been asked to reduce their water use by 20 percent, with a goal of 35 gallons per day, per person, for indoor use.

Residential water use accounts for around 68 percent of EBMUD’s water demand, while commercial use is around nine percent, and around 11 for industrial, according to Nelsy Rodriguez, spokesperson for EBMUD.

Current demand is going down because of conservation and is around 151 million gallons per day.

Also, a surcharge will be discussed by the EBMUD Board of Directors on June 9, and if approved, will go into effect July 1. The temporary surcharge would be removed if the EBMUD board decides the drought is over, according to Rodriguez.

Rodriguez went on to explain that about 100 people have protested the surcharge, using Proposition 218.

Prop 218 was passed in 1996, and requires local governments to have a vote when considering any new taxes on property owners. The law recently gained traction in April, when a California Court of Appeals said that the law extends to water municipalities.

Residents in Morada, a small town just north of Stockton, protested against increased water rates. Prop 218 allowed the town to keep water costs at a flat rate, as long as the majority of customers protested the hike.

However, the same Field report also indicates that 57 percent of California residents believe that agriculture can reduce water consumption without hardships.

In an interview with the Post, Dr. Peter Gleick, founder of Oakland-based Pacific Institute, said:

“The biggest source of water out there is the water that we waste every day, doing the things that we do. A lot of the water we use now can be used more effectively. We could grow more food with less water, with better irrigation technology. And we could supplement that with more efficient toilets and washing machines at home. That’s probably the biggest source of untapped water, is the water that we’re wasting.”

Gleick went on to explain that “in the short run, individual behavior plays a significant role during droughts, because it takes time to implement new policies or technologies. But in the long run, changes in technology will be very important. We have a short term drought, and a long term water problem.”

Looking at possible solutions, Gleick said, “We treat waste water, and treat it to a fairly high standard, and then dump it into the ocean. But now there’s more of an effort to put that waste water to re-use. For instance, we use recycled waste water for our office landscaping.”

“We need to expand our storage capacity, but there are innovative ideas around groundwater storage,” he continued. “We over-pump our groundwater now, but we could be refilling those aquifers during rainy years.”

“There are proposals for conjunctive use – it’s the joint management of surface water and ground water together, and I think that offers far more potential than any new surface storage,” Gleick added.

“The reason the idea is so appealing is that it doesn’t require any more damage to rivers, and water isn’t lost to evaporation. I think the concept has great potential,” he said.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, June 5, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Lynette McElhaney Puts Damper on Tagami’s Coal Plan

Demonstrators rallied Thursday morning out the Rotunda Building in downtown Oakland where Phil Tagami's office is located, calling on him to keep his promise not to ship coal through the Port of Oakland. Photo by Ethan Bruckner.

Demonstrators rallied Thursday morning out the Rotunda Building in downtown Oakland where Phil Tagami’s office is located, calling on him to keep his promise not to ship coal through the Port of Oakland. Photo by Ethan Bruckner.

By Ashley Chambers

News has spread of developer Phil Tagami’s plan to negotiate a deal with four counties in Utah to ship coal to a new export terminal at the Oakland Army Base that could begin operation as early as 2017.

However, opposition by city officials and community activists indicate tat they are many in the city who have no intentions of allowing the greenhouse gas producing material to be exported from the city’s port.

Last month, the Utah Permanent Community Impact Fund Board approved a $53 million loan to the four counties – Sevier, Sanpete, Carbon and Emery – to lease a large share of the Oakland terminal to export five to six million tons of coal each year.

Moving forward with this project would directly conflict with a resolution passed by the Oakland City Council last year “opposing the transport of coal, oil, petcoke (a byproduct of the oil refining process) and other hazardous materials by railways and waterways within the city.”

Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney, whose district includes West Oakland, the Oakland Army Base and the Port of Oakland, has voiced her opposition to the export of coal from city land, saying, “West Oakland cannot be subjected to another dirty industry in its backyard.”

“We were told that this new terminal on city property would increase economic growth, but I see coal exports as the Trojan horse in the development of the Oakland Army Base. It is not the type of economic development that we want – no thank you!”

McElhaney said, “Since coal was not contemplated to be exported when the Army Base Development project was approved, the community has not yet had the chance to make their voices heard on this subject. This is unacceptable.”

Last year, Port Commissioners voted to reject a proposal to construct a coal export terminal.

Activists rallied Thursday across from Oakland City Hall in front of the Rotunda building – where Tagami’s California Capital & Investment Group (CCIG) is located – demanding that the developer keep the promise he made to bring no coal into Oakland.

“CCIG is publicly on record as having no interest or involvement in the pursuit of coal-related operations at the former Oakland Army Base,” Tagami wrote in a 2013 newsletter.

Coal is one of the largest producers of carbon dioxide. The health impacts of bringing this fossil fuel to the city would affect residents, workers at the port, and disintegrate the global environment.

Photo by Ethan Buckner.

Photo by Ethan Buckner.

Former Port of Oakland executives Omar Benjamin and Jerry Bridges, who were supporters of the failed coal terminal proposal in 2014, are involved in the project with Tagami and recently met with the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP) and explained their plans to use “clean” coal.

They said they would use clean, contained cargo shipping train cars that will be unloaded inside contained warehouses. Clean coal refers to the process of capturing and storing carbon dioxide emissions underground.

It has also been said that coal would be covered on the trains to reduce the spill of coal dust.

However, these efforts will not eliminate the health effects that the West Oakland community will be exposed to, according to many.

Jess Dervin-Ackerman, Conservation Manager of the Bay Area Sierra Club, said harmful health impacts would take effect immediately “in a community already overburdened with air pollution, and diesel particulates from trucks, trains, and ships.”

Residents would experience higher risks of asthma, heart and lung disease, and cancer from “one of the dirtiest energies on the planet,” she said.

Local residents would be exposed to coal dust and diesel particulates in the air that they can easily breathe in, even through walls, and enter into their lungs and blood stream, explained Dervin-Ackerman, a resident of Emeryville.

“We have to be moving away from these fuels if we want to have food and a world to live in that isn’t blazing hot, or flooded under rising sea levels, ” said Brian Beveridge of WOEIP.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 16, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Tagami’s New Deal to Bring Coal to Oakland Draws Opposition

A pile of coal sits near the Crandall Canyon Mine northwest of Huntington. Mining experts say Utah has about 40-45 years of coal left. Photo courtesy of Kristin Nichols, Deseret Morning News.

A pile of coal sits near the Crandall Canyon Mine northwest of Huntington. Mining experts say Utah has about 40-45 years of coal left. Photo courtesy of Kristin Nichols, Deseret Morning News.

By Ashley Chambers

Now that the Oakland Army Base development project is well underway, city developer and project manager Phil Tagami is working on a behind-the-scenes $53 million deal to ship coal from Utah through the new Oakland trade and logistics.

Phil Tagami

Phil Tagami

Last year local residents spoke out, and the City Council and the Port of Oakland have voted not to allow coal to be shipped through the port.

The Utah Permanent Community Impact Fund Board last month approved funding that would allow four counties in the state to acquire interest in the port in Oakland, according to The Richfield Reaper.

Utah is the14th largest producer of coal in the U.S.

The coal would be exported as soon as summer 2017 through a terminal at the Army Base that is expected to begin construction later this year. The new Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal will be designed to transport “bulk commodities” including iron ore and oversized equipment.

While the deal is still being negotiated, according to reports, the project is Tagami’s deal and has remained off the city’s radar until recently.

Tagami said his seven years of securing approvals and environmental entitlements for the Oakland Army Base project allow him to “lease space to a private company that can export just about anything except ‘nuclear waste, illegal immigrants, weapons and drugs,’” as reported in the Contra Costa Times.

However, according to a number of residents, bringing coal into the city could jeopardize everything that community residents and activists have fought for in massive Army Base development project – among them, clean energy and reduced environmental impacts on the West Oakland community adjacent to the port and to the city in general..

“This (Army Base) is city property, and at least half of the total investments are public money,” said Brian Beveridge of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP) and resident of Oakland. “Ultimately, Tagami and his group is a tenant of the City of Oakland; they don’t own the land.”

There are two core local environmental impacts, said Beveridge – “hundreds of pounds of coal dust emissions in the area, with 150 to 850 pounds of coal dust lost in transit.”

Secondly, “Oakland has a greenhouse gas reduction plan. Everything we’ll have gathered will be lost” by buying and exporting coal into the city, he said.

“Coal is one of the worst greenhouse gas producers in the world,” Beveridge added.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has also voiced her opposition to the export of coal in the city, voting last in May as a councilmember in support of a resolution against the transport of fossil fuels through the city.

Although Utah has already approved funding, winning support for the deal in Oakland is likely to be a hard sell.

According to the Sierra Club, the nation’s largest grassroots environmental organization, coal burning is responsible for one-third of U.S. carbon emissions and leads to as many as 13,000 premature deaths every year and more than $100 billion in annual health costs.

In 2013, Tagami told Sierra Club leaders that there was no way he would consider coal as a commodity, according to Michelle Myers, director of the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter.

Myers suggested that the city amend the development agreement to allow them greater oversight on Tagami’s role as project manager and developer on the project.

“(Councilmembers) clearly expressed that they don’t want this type of commodity coming through the community, but they don’t have the legal levers to prevent it,” she said. “This is public land. They could potentially repeal his authority.”

Added Beveridge, “The city needs to define more clearly what kind of action and activities are appropriate to happen on their public land.”

“We have to connect our world-view to our local view, and exporting coal is a disconnect,” he said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 9, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)