A US federal judge in California on Tuesday overturned a ban by the city of Oakland on coal being transported through an export terminal at the Bay Area port city.
The City of Oakland had instituted the ban in 2014 in response to environmentalists’ concerns that shipping coal through the terminal posed a significant health risk to workers and people living in nearby neighbourhoods.
In his 37-page ruling on Tuesday, US District Judge Vince Chhabria said the city’s ban violated an agreement between the city and a company called Oakland Bulk & Oversized Terminal (OBOT), which was developing a $250 million bulk-loading commodity export terminal in West Oakland near the foot of the Bay Bridge.
City officials approved a rail and marine terminal at the site – a former Army base – in 2013.
In 2015 news broke that OBOT planned a dedicated coal export facility, which would receive coal from mines in Utah owned by Bowie Resource Partners and ship it to overseas markets.
By June the following year, the city enacted its coal ban ordinance, prohibiting the transport, handling and storage of coal and petroleum coke (petcoke) at terminals and bulk facilities in Oakland.
Judge Chhabria’s Tuesday decision found that the city had not produced substantial evidence that transporting coal through the city to the terminal would endanger public health. He said the expert report commissioned by the city was full of gaps and errors.
Oakland officials and environmentalists (including the Sierra Club) lamented the judge’s ruling but said the fight was not yet over.
The National Mining Association praised the judge for ruling “on the facts”.