Tuesday, September 22, 2015

ILWU Opposing Oakland Coal Exports

By Mark Edward Nero

Longshore workers and marine clerks who move cargo at the Oakland and San Francisco seaports have rejected a developer’s plan to export coal through the former Oakland Army Base.

International Longshore and Warehouse Union elected officials said Sept. 18 that coal is an “undesirable, low-value cargo” and a “broken promise” on the part of the developer, and that longshore workers stand by community members in opposition to the plan, which would potentially bring nine million tons of coal passing through their neighborhoods on trains each year.

The rank and file members of ILWU Local 10 and ILWU Local 34 were the members that voted to oppose the handling of coal at the site.

“When the developers of the project were seeking tax money and public support to develop the Oakland Army Base, they talked about exporting cargoes like grain and potash,” ILWU Local 34 President Sean Farley said. “They made a ‘no coal’ promise to workers, the community and elected officials, and they need to make good on that promise. Waterfront space is in short supply on the West Coast, and it would be a mistake to lock Oakland into a decades-long lease with a coal industry that many say is dying. Coal proposals have failed up and down the West Coast, and Oakland shouldn’t become the dumping ground for dirty, low value cargoes that no one else wants.”

After the Oakland City Council granted the California Capital and Investment Group (CCIG) the right to develop the former Army base adjacent to the Port of Oakland, CCIG planned to build the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT) on the site.

The OBOT is expected to be completed in 2017 and handle up to nine million tons of commodities a year – including 4.5 billion tons of coal – brought in by rail and loaded onto ships bound for other countries, according to the terminal’s builder and operator. The terminal’s legal representation contends that coal is one of many commodities city officials knew might be exported from the facility when they agreed to the development.