U.S. Judge Blocks Oakland Port's Ban on Coal Shipments


32 points | by protomyth 313 days ago


  • orasis 313 days ago

    This seems appropriate. Local governments shouldn’t be able to determine international commerce policy.

    • fiter 313 days ago

      I think local governments should be able to regulate emissions in their local area. I'm surprised they didn't take that approach as it would have allowed the economic benefit if possible without the harmful effects. After this court ruling, I expect the next step will be related to monitoring emissions and fining as appropriate.


      • 313 days ago
        • vkou 313 days ago

          But they aren't determining international commerce policy. The coal companies are free to ship it out through Texas, or Wyoming, or wherever will have them.

          There's a difference between "I don't want guns in my house" and "I want guns to be banned in my country."

          It's not Oakland's responsibility to ensure that the coal industry can make money in Oakland.

          • bcheung 313 days ago

            Such reasoning is detrimental to a free society. It's not a house, it's a port. And a major one at that.

            Should ISPs be free to discriminate and ban anything they don't like too?

            • fiter 313 days ago

              The government does regulate what ISPs can host. In this case, the local government is trying to regulate what the port can host.

              • AmericanChopper 313 days ago

                Should cities where fiber cables land be able to regulate what packets pass through them?

                • fiter 313 days ago

                  Your original statement was that ISPs should not get to ban. I noted that ISPs might not get to ban, but governments do get to ban. You are now asking me if governments should get to ban. I believe I already said that they do get to ban.

                  If your point is that you believe specifically cities should not be able to ban, then maybe that should be the case. I'd like to hear your argument, though.

                  • AmericanChopper 313 days ago

                    You're actually replying to a different person.

                    But in any case, giving local government the power to arbitrarily deny access to national infrastructure is a terrible idea, and it would allow local government to override any national foreign trade strategies, amongst other things. There's lots of major exchange points on the west coast, should the cities where they're located have a say on what packets they handle? Do you think your requests should be dropped if the City of San Jose doesn't want to serve them for you? Because that's no different than this.

                    • mikeash 313 days ago

                      Oakland owns this “national infrastructure” so it doesn’t seem at all like San Jose dropping my requests, unless they own the network.

                      • AmericanChopper 313 days ago

                        This point is entirely contrived. California owns all of the interstates within it's borders, are they also "national infrastructure"? Do you think California should be able to dictate what goods can and cannot be transported on them? Numerous private companies own the fiber cables and exchanges that deliver internet across the country, are they "national infrastructure" too? In this case a local council is trying to control what goods can and cannot be imported out of America, something which it does not and should not have the power to do.

                        Edit: in case it’s not clear, your “unless they own the network” remark is an assertion that Net Neitrality should not exist in any form.

                        • manicdee 313 days ago

                          Governments already do dictate what goods can not be carried on their roads. At the very least we have load limits, size limits, speed limits. Then there is dangerous goods regulation meaning you aren't allowed to transport fuel in buckets on an open trailer, and you aren't allowed to transport sand in uncovered trailers either.

                          • AmericanChopper 313 days ago

                            All of those regulations are for public safety, and regulate how goods are transported, not what goods are transported. If Oakland could provide some evidence that exporting coal via it's port posed a public safety risk to the people of Oakland, then they'd have had a case. The truth is simply that they don't want anybody exporting coal from the US, and they are trying to majorly overstep the limits of their power.

                            • manicdee 313 days ago

                              Or maybe the truth is that coal handling ports produce a lot of particulate pollution in excess of existing regulations which Oakland is sick and tired of policing only to have offenders return to their polluting ways.

                              • AmericanChopper 313 days ago

                                The goal of these organisations is to end US coal exports, and that they will abuse the court system with any vexatious lawsuit they can dream up. They had the opportunity to present evidence to support their claim that shipping coal through the city posed any health risk to the community, and they failed to produce any evidence to that effect.

                                • manicdee 313 days ago

                                  They did produce documentstion to that effect, but Tagami claimed thst using these brand new whizzo coal car covers, no dust would escape (despite having no evidence to support that claim).

                                  The judge basically ruled thst since the report didn't perform a comparison to other sources of pollution, that it was not relevant.

                                  Which I guess is fine if you regard deaths from lung cancer as a statistical measure rather than preventable losses.

                          • mikeash 313 days ago

                            “Edit: in case it’s not clear, your “unless they own the network” remark is an assertion that Net Neitrality should not exist in any form.”

                            Excuse me? I was describing what would be needed for your comparison to make sense. There’s no sensible path from that to “Net Neutrality should not exist in any form.”

                            • AmericanChopper 313 days ago

                              Lots of different parties own the internet infrastructure, same as the roads, ports, utilities... Should any of those parties have the right to dictate what packets can traverse their networks, and what cannot. Should a state or municipality decide what good can be transported on the roads they 'own'? The comparison is perfectly sound. You simply don't want to address it, or respond to your ludicrous implication that international ports are not part of our national infrastructure.

                              • mikeash 313 days ago

                                You seem determined to read way more into my comments than I actually wrote, so I’ll leave you to it.

                                • AmericanChopper 313 days ago

                                  The only thing you have offered in response to any of my comments is deflection.

                                  • mikeash 313 days ago

                                    I just thought your analogy was bad due to differences in ownership. Principles for regulating things owned by others are different from principles for regulating things owned by the regulating entity. That’s not deflection, that’s my entire and sole point here.

                • mikeash 313 days ago

                  The only reason we need regulations to stop ISPs from banning things is because there isn’t enough competition to make it happen naturally. This is not the case with ports.

                • aje403 313 days ago

                  If we're going to use invalid analogies, there's also a big difference between "I declare murder to be legal in the home that I own!" and "I think murder should be legalized!"

                • Keverw 313 days ago

                  Also local governments such as Los Angeles are planning to ban Diesel and Gas by 2030. So I guess people on vacation visiting will get a huge fine, car impounded, etc for just visiting?

                  I think local governments are overstepping their bounds. Now if it has to do with sales of gas/diesel within city limits that would make more sense, people who disagree can just go give money to the next city over if they prefer liquid over electric. However couldn't find much info on it, just a pledge right now. I think they did it to despite Trump for dropping out of the Paris agreement. So I'm hoping it's more of just trying to create PR than actually creating any new laws.

                  Plus that's a huge area where I doubt every one can afford to go buy a electric, plus electric seems limiting for road trips or for RVs. Then you also got classic car collectors too. Just imagine being told by some city you have to buy a new car by a certain date and gas stations all closed by then too.

                  • phil248 313 days ago

                    You sound very concerned about a proposal you read about that might happen in 10 or 15 years in a city you don't live in.

                    "...plus electric seems limiting for road trips or for RVs"

                    You also seem to know very little about electric vehicles.

                    • Keverw 313 days ago

                      In America we have freedom of movement. So I think a city banning certain types of cars is wrong if it's legal on the federal level, so I do very much care about this sort of topic.

                      Electric you have to plan where to charge instead of just fueling up anywhere. Plus liquid pours faster than electric, and fast charging isn't healthy for batteries according to some articles I read. Suppose to be more for emergencies. Not every hotel or camping spot has EV chargers. Same for restaurants, tourist attractions, and other places you'd naturally stop.

                      Orlando to Los Angeles is over 2,500 miles.

                      Then RV people can go off the grid for weeks at a time, just visiting town to dump tanks, fill up water and fuel. Quartzite is a popular destination for snowbirds.

                      Sure a lot of people who go off the grid has solar for like powering their lights and electronics, but not sure if the storage and solar is there yet to also worry about the engine itself and not just the house batteries. Especially since you still need to run the generator for AC.

                      I think electric still needs more development. I feel like mandating it is limiting people's freedom of movement... Maybe the government of California would rather keep it's residents from moving to Texas and Florida which is happening according to statistics. People want to be able to afford housing and cheaper goods.

                      I guess if it does become a mandate, you could just tote around a bunch of fuel containers and a standalone generator to charge your electric engine up if it ever did come to that... I think solar is cool but even then you don't get enough sun everyday or something acts up, so fuel for backup is always good to have too.

                      Then Lithium ion batteries are more efficient than other batteries, but fire is a concern. Especially how cars can heat up like a oven.

                      Personally I'm more open to a hybrid than 100% electric. I know they are coming out with a Jeep Wrangler hybrid, along with a diesel model too which sounds interesting. Electric for city driving or fuel for highway and off road driving sounds awesome. Best of both worlds. Clean for city driving or when wanting to go on a long distance trip no need to worry about range.

                • mrguyorama 313 days ago

                  So wait, if I live in a city with a very busy port, and things happening at that port lead to damage to my health, do I really have no choice but to live with it or move away? I can't vote for policies restricting the damaging things the port is doing?

                  Is there a more local equivalent of the EPA? One that could legally have teeth without being swatted down by the Supreme Court?

                  • true_religion 313 days ago

                    No, due to federal supremacy, individual cities aren't allowed to control international commerce. They can ban use, but not possession, or mere transportation. Even cities which banned handguns had to allow you to transport your handgun through them on your way to someplace else.

                    • fiter 313 days ago

                      It's not so much the intentional transportation that's the issue. The leakage is the problem. Are individual cities required to allow leaky transportation of hazardous materials on their roads?

                  • JumpCrisscross 313 days ago

                    Can't California just slap a fat tax on ports based on tonnage of coal handled?

                    • icebraining 313 days ago

                      Aren't import taxes one of the few clear privileges in the Constitution that the Federal Government is supposed to have over the States?

                      • alistairSH 313 days ago

                        This case was about exports.

                        • koolba 313 days ago

                          Tariffs can be for both import and export.

                          • alistairSH 313 days ago

                            The parent comment specifically mentioned import tariffs, which are the only type allowed in the US Constitution, and would not be applicable to this case, which is about exports.

                            • bluGill 313 days ago

                              In the US export tarrifs were not allowed, though other countries do (or at least have)

                        • AndrewBissell 313 days ago

                          No? That would raise all the same interstate commerce issues that led the judge to block the export ban in this case.

                          • dragonwriter 313 days ago

                            > That would raise all the same interstate commerce issues that led the judge to block the export ban in this case.

                            The judge blocked this on contract, not interstate commerce grounds.

                            FTFA: “The legal dispute hinged on whether the coal ban violated an agreement between the city and a company developing a bulk loading terminal near the city’s port.”

                            • rtkwe 313 days ago

                              That's through their current attempt which from the article sounds like it raised health and safety concerns.

                              > Oakland Bulk & Oversized Terminal LLC, argued the city had no substantial evidence that shipping coal through the terminal would endanger the health of workers or surrounding communities.

                              AndrewBissell was replying about them using taxes as a way to significantly discourage bringing coal through the Oakland port where the article is about them just attempting a regular ban which is against the contract which probably only allows the city to ban the port from moving a good if it poses a health/safety risk to the town.

                              • dragonwriter 313 days ago

                                > AndrewBissell was replying about them using taxes

                                Right, but he didn't just say that such an effort would raise interstate commerce issues (which would be sort of correct, although the Art. I, Sec. 8 Commerce Clause issue—what is usually referred to by interstate commerce issues—is dwarfed by the bright-line Art. I, Sec. 9 export tax/duty issue) but that it would raise “all the same interstate commerce issues that led the judge to block the export ban in this case” which is wrong (or at least meaningless) since this was a case decided on contract, not interstate commerce, grounds.

                            • sxates 313 days ago

                              Berkeley can tax Soda but Oakland can't tax Coal?

                              • simcop2387 313 days ago

                                Berkeley is also only trying to tax soda sold in berkeley. Oakland's issue is that they're trying to control the item being sold in other places, just because they're being brought through oakland.

                                • JumpCrisscross 313 days ago

                                  Which is why I’m curious about California taxing its ports for handling coal. Port services are sold in California.

                                  • 313 days ago
                                • 313 days ago
                                  • presidentender 313 days ago

                                    Berkeley can only tax soda because the court hasn't ruled.

                                • 313 days ago
                                • DrScump 313 days ago

                                  This judge is a distinguished graduate of U.C. Berkeley, a former clerk to Justice Breyer, and an Obama appointee.


                                  • John_KZ 313 days ago

                                    Is there a real reason this happened besides attacking the coal industry? Is this even considered legal now?

                                    • mikeash 313 days ago

                                      The reason is the potential health impact on locals, and given that a judge struck it down, I suspect that it is not legal.

                                      • djrogers 313 days ago

                                        That was a justification used, but looking at the groups who pushed for the ban it was clearly an attempt to punish/attack the coal industry.

                                        • Drakim 313 days ago

                                          What is the reason, in your opinion, that these people were born with an irrational hatred for coal? Something in their DNA maybe?

                                          Or could it be that the consequences of coal negatively affects their community?

                                          • pathseeker 313 days ago

                                            >Or could it be that the consequences of coal negatively affects their community?

                                            It is more likely that they don't like coal because of the concentrated propaganda (some justified) against coal by political groups in the US.

                                            It's unlikely that coal was negatively affecting Oakland in any way (other than the global scale climate change which a local ban has no impact on). Can you elaborate how you think coal shipments were harming the Oakland community?

                                            • bluGill 313 days ago

                                              Coal miners get black lung from coal dust. It is possible that if the port is very stupid about their design they could put so much coal dust into the air that it would affect the community.

                                              Note that I said possible. Ports normally would not do the type of things that would cause this problem even in the complete absence of legal and moral controls.

                                        • John_KZ 313 days ago

                                          It's extreme. The only think that coal-loading can produce is minuscule amounts of dust that can be eliminated with a piece of tarp. I don't object the people's right to try and pitchfork down the coal industry, but the company should appeal.

                                          • mikeash 313 days ago

                                            > the company should appeal.

                                            Did you miss the part where they won?

                                            • cryptoz 313 days ago

                                              > The only think that coal-loading can produce is minuscule amounts of dust...

                                              That is absolutely not the only thing that coal loading can produce. The locals have to breathe air too, and the locals may very well be concerned about the breath-ability of their own air after another half century of greenhouse gas emissions, increased outputs of coal mines, etc.

                                              Claiming that the "only" thing that coal loading does to locals' health is small amounts of dust is wrong. Your claim is provably wrong, and it seems like you're making the claim intentionally knowing it is wrong, just to say it anyway.

                                              Handling coal at the Port of Oakland has a long list of negative consequences for the locals that you are completely ignoring, acting dismissive of and otherwise rude about how the locals feel about their own health. It's insane to suggest people are trying "pitchfork down" an industry while completely ignoring a majority of issues caused by the coal loading.

                                              • stale2002 313 days ago

                                                Ok, so it is not the fact that it is that 'specific' port that the health consequences happen.

                                                The green house gasses would be caused whether it is that port or a different one.

                                                • mikeash 313 days ago

                                                  It makes an impact. If it didn’t, the coal companies wouldn’t care about it in the first place.

                                          • kyleblarson 313 days ago

                                            Just standard practice for ultra liberal west coast city councils and politicians who would rather virtue signal than deal with the rampant crime, shit/needle strewn sidewalks and lack of housing options in their cities.

                                          • cryptoz 313 days ago

                                            Some questions/comments.

                                            > The developer, Oakland Bulk & Oversized Terminal LLC, argued the city had no substantial evidence that shipping coal through the terminal would endanger the health of workers or surrounding communities.

                                            I thought it was commonly accepted that operating the Port of Oakland has health impacts on the surrounding communities. Therefore it seems clear that any shipping activity has health impacts for those nearby, coal or otherwise. This is confusing. Is he lying, or am I incorrect?

                                            (Edit: Does coal come in by truck? If so then it will very clearly have a health impact on the surrounding communities as this study has already been done: http://pacinst.org/news/new-study-reveals-alarmingly-high-co... and if the coal doesn't come in by truck, would it still change or alter truck patterns in the area?)

                                            I cannot fathom how someone thinks that increasing shipments at the Port of Oakland will have no health impacts on the surrounding communities - going so far as to say that there isn't any 'substantial' information about it which is clearly a lie.

                                            > Reversing the ban could increase exports by as much as 19 percent, according to the Sierra Club...The National Mining Association cheered the ruling.

                                            This seems like tragedy of the commons. Clearly all the miners would be better off if there were no coal shipments, because we'd all be better off if there were no coal shipments. The National Mining Association should applaud reductions in harmful greenhouse gasses as it prepares to move its workers into a more sustainable field.

                                            • CPLX 313 days ago

                                              When shipped by land, coal is almost invariably shipped by rail.

                                              • cryptoz 313 days ago

                                                Good to know. In that case, assuming 100% of the coal arrives by rail to the Port of Oakland, and there is an overall net increase in shipping activity, it stands to logical reason that there might be an issue with changing truck traffic for other loads in the port - this would then have a direct affect on the locals existing health problems that are already documented. Clearly the reality of the situation would still be at odds with the insane claim that additional coal shipments wouldn't have any studied affect on the locals.

                                                Edit: I have been banned again for something, I guess it's too many comments with too many downvotes?. Since I'm not allowed to reply, here is my comment reply to the comment below this.

                                                There is not one single, individual argument about this - there are many.

                                                Coal is singled out here likely because it is one of the most damaging things that could be shipped through the port. I'm not the one who singled it out. But clearly, if the locals are concerned about their health, than this is a major thing to look at.

                                                Additionally, I was taking the quote of the port loading commercial developer, who said specifically that there would be no health impact to locals, or no study about it - and I am responding that this is false. Either he is lying or does not know the truth.

                                                • CompelTechnic 313 days ago

                                                  If the argument is that any net increase in shipping traffic is bad for local health, then why is coal singled out here when the effects are just the same as any other cargo?

                                              • djrogers 313 days ago

                                                > I thought it was commonly accepted that operating the Port of Oakland has health impacts on the surrounding communities.

                                                Clearly that's not related to the question at hand here - the question is will allowing coal shipments cause more health risk than shipping anything else from the port. The port of Oakland is important enough to the state and national economy that it will pretty much be at or near full capacity at all times, so coal would mostly displace other shipments, making your edit-linked article moot (oh, and it would mostly be rail anyway).

                                                Ports are a necessary fact of a global economy, and the fact is they tenhave historically had large cities develop around them due to the jobs and opportunities they created. It sounds like you'd prefer that the port get completely shut down. That's an opinion, but it's unrelated to this case - and unlikley to get anywhere. You'd be much better off moving away from the port and teh city that grew up around it.

                                                • DoubleCribble 313 days ago

                                                  For the record - The Port is nowhere near full capacity. The Outer Harbor has been mothballed for 2+ years. [0] The coal shipments would displace the current bulk shipments terminal as it would be converted to a dedicated coal export terminal.


                                                  • cryptoz 313 days ago

                                                    Interesting points, thanks.

                                                    > Clearly that's not related to the question at hand here

                                                    That's not clear at all, actually the opposite is clear. Health impacts of local people were discussed directly in the article. It's clearly a major issue that is directly "related to the question at hand."

                                                    > It sounds like you'd prefer that the port get completely shut down.

                                                    I absolutely would not prefer that! That's insane. Please don't put such ridiculous and insane things down as something I said. No way. The Port of Oakland should obviously grow in size as necessary to fit the economy. The Port of Oakland is obviously extremely important. So is recognizing the facts of health impacts of locals and not dismissing it as irrelevant.

                                                    > You'd be much better off moving away from the port and teh city that grew up around it.

                                                    I don't live anywhere near there. But I think you'd find that the people who live by the Port of Oakland are not there by choice, and have little financial ability to stage a physical move. It is an incredibly impoverished area, and to suggest people just 'move away' is insulting, rude, and does not even remotely fit the situation.