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Federal Judge Sides Against Oakland's Ban on Coal Shipments

A federal judge in California blocked the city of Oakland's attempt to prevent the shipment of coal through a proposed cargo terminal.

A company owned by developer Phil Tagami signed an agreement with the city in 2013 to redevelop a stretch of the Oakland Army Base and build a bulk commodity export terminal. In 2015, it came to light that the terminal would be dedicated to the export of coal from Utah to Asian markets. The Oakland City Council responded in 2016 with a ban on shipments of coal and petroleum coke, citing a clause in its contract with Tagami's company, Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal, stating that "Oakland may enact new regulations on the project if there is 'substantial evidence' that these regulations are necessary to protect public health and safety," the East Bay Express reports.

Tagami sued for breach of contract, and, on Tuesday, United States District Court Judge Vince Chhabria sided with the developer. In his ruling, Chhabria said that the data the city provided to support its arguments for public-health hazards were "riddled with inaccuracies, major evidentiary gaps, erroneous assumptions, and faulty analyses, to the point that no reliable conclusion about health or safety dangers could be drawn from it."

The Oakland City Council is likely to appeal Chhabria's decision, or pursue some other strategy to block the movement of coal through the city. "Oakland's most vulnerable communities have unfairly suffered the burden of pollutants and foul air for too long," Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said Tuesday, according to the East Bay Express. "We will continue to fight this battle on all fronts; not just today, but every day."