Sinkler Miller Medical Association (SMMA) was contacted by one of our members, Dr. Muntu Davis, Department Director and County Health Officer, on behalf of The No Coal in Oakland organization in February 2016 requesting our support to join the fight to keep coal from coming through Oakland. The proposed means of transportation was by open railcars which would pass through the communities of East and West Oakland. Knowing that the Bay Area, particularly West Oakland, has some of the highest asthma rates, the potential impact on the health and well-being of our community prompted our organization to take a stand on the issue.
We felt that it was important to not just lend our voice, but to be knowledgeable about the chain of events that led to the request.
Here’s a brief summary: in 2012, the city awarded California capital and investment group (CCIG) headed by developer Phil Tagami, the right to develop the Oakland Army base. At the time the contract was awarded, the developer had assured the Oakland City council that coal would not be on the list of commodities transported through the bulk terminal. In 2015, it was learned that the state of Utah loaned $53million to CCIG for the construction of a 330 acre multi-commodity deep draft marine terminal in exchange for the export of coal to the Pacific Rim economies. This prompted many hearings by the City Council where both the opponents and proponents presented their perspective. Through networking, numerous letters to the City Council, organization of a teach-in designed to educate the community on this issue as well as related community concerns, the voice of the No Coal in Oakland campaign grew louder.
Hundreds of community organizations took a stand on this issue. In March of 2016, SMMA sent the first of two letters to the Oakland City Council voicing our opposition to the transport of coal through our communities. The initial ban on coal was approved by the City Council on June 27, 2016 and became law on July 19, 2016.