The would-be developer of a port terminal in Oakland, California, is suing the Bay Area city over a ban on coal being transported through its precincts, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The federal lawsuit brought by Phil Tagami, an associate of state governor Jerry Brown, calls for the overturning of a city ordinance passed in June this year.
That ordinance banned the transport, handling and storage of coal and petroleum coke (petcoke) at terminals and bulk facilities in Oakland.
In passing the ban, councillors cited environmental and health concerns relating to coal dust.
Tagami’s company Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT) was contracted to build a terminal on the site of the former Oakland Army Base, which closed in 1999.
In the original proposition Tagami assured the City that coal was not on a shortlist of commodities to come through Oakland.
But his position changed and now he wants to haul coal by train all the way from Utah to OBOT from where it would be shipped to foreign markets.
The lawsuit contends that the ordinance breaks the city’s contract with OBOT and violates federal laws regulating interstate trade, marine shipping and rail transportation.
It also maintains that the City of Oakland overstepped its authority in what amounted to an “unconstitutional abuse of its power”.
And it questions the legitimacy of two studies the City used to justify its coal ban.
If the project goes ahead it could see Oakland handling 10 million tons of coal a year, more than three times the amount currently exported by all California ports.
Environmental groups say they will stand by the city in contesting the lawsuit.