By Chris White
May 16, 2018 - A federal judge struck down a ban Oakland, California placed on energy companies’ attempts to use the city’s ports to transport coal to overseas markets.
The 2014 ban violates a development agreement, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria said Tuesday in a court ruling activists called unfortunate. The dispute hinged on whether an agreement between the city and a developer put workers and nearby communities at risk.
Oakland had no substantial evidence suggesting coal shipments through the terminal endangered people’s health, Oakland Bulk & Oversized Terminal argued. Chhabria agreed, writing in the court filing: “On the primary question presented by this lawsuit, Oakland is wrong.”
Miners depend increasingly on overseas markets — especially in China and elsewhere — as coal markets within the U.S. dwindle. Wyoming and Montana’s Powder River Basin is largely cut off from the world market without West Coast ports.
Nixing the ban could increase exports by as much as 19 percent, according to the Sierra Club.
“This decision is just one step in what we expect to be a long legal process,” Luis Amezcua, a spokesman for Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter, said in a statement addressing Chhabria’s decision. Coal lobbyist groups cheered the decision.
“It is gratifying to see a case where the judge ruled on the facts,” Ashley Burke, National Mining Association spokeswoman, told reporters at Bloomberg. “Local governments, working with activist environmental groups, cannot be allowed to obstruct and steer interstate and foreign commerce decisions on behalf of the country.”
California locals have spent months teeing off against fossil fuel companies they believe are responsible for contributing to global warming.
Oakland and San Francisco, for instance, sued five energy companies in March for engaging in a nearly decades-long misinformation campaign about the science of climate change. Both cities want Chevron and others to fork over billions to cover the cost of sea walls to combat rising sea levels.
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