An Oakland city council hearing to determine whether rail shipments of coal would pose a public health hazard started Monday night with an audience packed with supporters and opponents of the plan.
A yes vote by the Oakland City Council could scuttle the plan to build a marine terminal that would serve as a gateway for Utah coal heading to Asia.
Detractors highlight the environmental dangers of bringing millions of tons of coal through the area while supporters tout the economic benefits.
Before the meeting, more than 150 people on both sides held boisterous rallies full of song and chants.
Even the project’s developers have conceded that the council will likely vote to ban coal shipments. A lawyer for the Oregon Bulk and Oversized Terminal on Monday sent the council a letter detailing potential legal consequences.
”Politically, no quantity of handling coal or petcoke under whatever extraordinary standard will be tolerated,” said David Smith. ”While that may accomplish a political outcome, it is only the first steps towards an unfortunate legal outcome.”
Jerry Bridges, chief executive of the potential marine terminal operator, said jobs are the biggest issue and any environmental impact will be mitigated by transporting coal in covered rail cars that are unloaded underground.
”The only jobs that are here are jobs around Uber and Google and jobs that people who look like me generally don’t get,” said Bridges, who is black. His company, Terminal Logistics Solutions, has an option to operate the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal.