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Port of Long Beach's vote to lock in coal exports for another decade

Morgan Wyenn

Posted June 9, 2014

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While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced last week the nation’s first regulation to limit carbon pollution from fossil fueled fired power plants, here in Southern California, the Port of Long Beach has been moving forward to lock in contracts for more than another decade of exporting coal.  For procedural reasons, the Port’s decision-making body, the Board of Harbor Commissioners, has to vote on the agreements twice.  They voted the first time at the end of May, and is going to hold the second vote on Monday, June 9.

As I blogged about here, the agreements are with two companies that handle the Port’s export of coal and some other bulk commodities, the Metropolitan Stevedore Company and Oxbow Carbon.  These agreements require the Port to export 1.7 million metric tons of coal every year for the next five years.  And after five years, the amount of coal required can be increased, without any input from the public.

It is unacceptable for an arm of our government—the Port is an entity of the City of Long Beach—to be in the business of pushing climate-change causing fuels on to other countries.  This is especially true given that every level of our government, from the White House to the State of California and even the City of Long Beach, are advancing increasingly stronger policies to phase off of coal and otherwise reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.  The Port deciding to stay in the business of coal exports flies in the face of our national, state, and local city policies. 

Further, this decision flies in the face of one of our state’s most important environmental laws, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  CEQA requires agencies like the Port to analyze the environmental impacts of these kinds of decisions, yet the Port has done absolutely zero analysis of the environmental impacts of exporting millions of tons of coal.

I will be at the Port’s vote, Monday night at 6 pm, asking them to say NO to coal, alongside our friends from Earthjustice and the Sierra Club.  The Port proudly calls itself “The Green Port,” but if it keeps exporting coal, I think we should ask them to get a different motto.

The Port of Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners meeting is June 9, at 6 pm, at their new Administrative offices at 4801 Airport Plaza Drive in Long Beach, California.

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Lauren SteinerJun 9 2014 03:23 AM

I was just made aware of this by some Facebook post. Why did someone not organize a demonstration and press conference about this? It's great that a few reps from environmental NGOs are testifying. But without a big public outcry and press attention given to this travesty, I expect the vote will be unanimous again. The NRDC has a lot of money. You are one of the most well funded environmental NGOs out there. You need to spend that money hiring organizers and PR people. Also, what about organizing citizen lobby meetings with elected officials who have influence over these commissioners? Are you at least planning to do a lawsuit to force a CEQA review?

LoveAmerica1stJun 9 2014 05:35 PM

A large amount of this coal is not even used for electricity. The coal exported out of Long Beach is largely used for the production of Cement. It is some of the best and cleanest coal in the world for the cement process. It has virtually no mercury. It is also used as a type of filter in coking steel. Some is used for electricity, but it is super compliant coal meaning it is very low in toxins compared with other coals. You people want to help the environment, but by protesting things without knowing the actually hurt it!

Adrian MartinezJun 9 2014 07:08 PM

Thanks for raising this issue Morgan. Unfortunately, I cannot make it tonight. I think LoveAmerica1st raises some interesting issues. If this coal is so great, then the Port should not be afraid of an environmental review. Also, Lauren is right that we need citizens to tell Long Beach officials about their deep concern over coal and petroleum coke. Finally, even if there is such a thing as "super compliant coal," I don't think anybody can claim there is such thing as a "super compliant petroleum coke."

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