Attorney General Becerra Files Amicus Brief Supporting Oakland’s Ban on Storage and Handling of Coal

Friday, December 8, 2017
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today filed an amicus brief in support of the City of Oakland’s ordinance prohibiting the storage and handling of coal and petroleum coke at the Bulk Oversized Terminal. The City of Oakland passed the ordinance in July 2016 because of concerns about the health and safety impacts of coal, and the extent to which those impacts would be disproportionately borne by disadvantaged communities of color residing in West Oakland near the Bulk Oversized Terminal. Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal, LLC – the developer of the Bulk Oversized Terminal – is currently challenging the ordinance.

“Breathing clean air should not be a privilege for the few, but a right for all,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Unfortunately, in Oakland, people of color would have to bear the brunt of the pollution emitted by the handling of coal and petroleum coke at the Bulk Oversized Terminal. The Oakland City Council put a stop to that in 2016, as was their legal right, and the California Department of Justice is today offering them our full-fledged support.” 

In the amicus brief, Attorney General Becerra argues that:

  • Oakland properly invoked its local police powers to protect the health and welfare of Oakland residents;
  • West Oakland residents are already overburdened by pollution, and the handling and storage of coal would increase their pollution burden;
  • Oakland's ordinance is not preempted by any federal law; and 
  • Oakland's ordinance does not violate the dormant Commerce Clause of the Constitution. 

If the ordinance is invalidated, millions of tons of coal could be transported from Utah to Oakland annually by train and then shipped to countries around the world. Pollution from coal dust would impact communities residing near the Bulk Oversized Terminal that are already designated by Cal-EPA and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District as being disproportionately burdened by, and vulnerable to, multiple sources of air and other pollution, and that have higher than average rates of asthma and cancer.

A copy of the brief is attached to the electronic version of this release at

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PDF icon Amicus Brief.pdf1.05 MB