Late in the day on Monday, Utah Senator Stuart Adams (Republican-Layton) filed a bill whose title immediately sparked interest on the part of many who understand that during the last days of Utah’s 45-day legislative session (sine die on March 10), lots of interesting things happen. The bill was introduced to allay the fears of special interests that would protect and preserve Utah’s significant extraction industry. Utah is an “energy exporting state,” so the idea of getting to Pacific export portals is not a new concept for landlocked and mineral-rich Utah. Four Utah counties had a plan to use their Community Impact Board money to do the same thing, but there is still significant pressure to use those funds for infrastructure and other concerns related to extraction impacts that have already occurred in local areas. Adams’ bill is designed to keep the hope alive that Bowie Resource Partners would still have an outlet to the Pacific Rim markets, and specifically China. The bill also placates the rural caucus and “King Coal,” especially. Many say that there are lingering and significant problems with the concept. Some originate not in Utah, but in California, home to one of the West’s other supermajorities in state legislature.
Ahead of her city council’s regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, February 16th, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf (Democrat) forwarded a letter to her council members requesting that they postpone a vote for a study to determine the viability of a coal terminal at the planned Port of Oakland.
Schaaf was on the record early on in her attempts to scuttle any coal or crude oil transported through the city. Her letter was her attempt to convince the council that there were other, “more effective options” to exclude the coal terminal idea which has drawn widespread opposition in her community. At the city council’s September 15th meeting, the AFL-CIO led by International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10 flooded the room to register their opposition as well, telling the city to “Kill Dirty Coal” and other “low-value cargoes.”
Environmental Science Associates, a San Francisco planning and project design firm, had previously issued a report finding “negligible impacts” of plans to move crude oil by rail through Benicia, a sister-city in the eastern San Francisco Bay.
Recent rail incidents involving hazardous materials in densely urban areas have sparked safety concerns for transportation regulators throughout the country. All of this prompted a commissioned, independent research firm named FM3, to conduct a poll which found that 75 percent of Oakland voters oppose transporting coal by rail through their city.
On February 16, the Oakland city council tabled a proposal in support of Mayor Schaaf’s letter – which was viewed as a victory for the activists and unions opposing the coal terminal and crude oil shipments. This was noted locally as a defeat for Terminal Logistics Solutions, the company which planned to use the marine terminal in West Oakland to access Pacific Rim markets for coal and other commodities.
TLS is fronting the effort for developer Phil Tagami, who has had some difficulty securing funding for his plans.
It is unclear as to how Senate Majority Whip Stuart Adams’ (Republican – Layton) Senate bill SB 246 – Funding for Infrastructure Revisions will be affected by these developments and why he would proceed with such information coming from Oakland just weeks before. The bill would enable Utah to formally invest in the port and came surprisingly late in the session on Monday night.
In a press conference on Tuesday, March 1, Republican Governor Gary Herbert indicated that he could support Adams’ bill that involved sales tax monies for what Adams insists would be a loan to the Oakland developer. A loan with a high return on investment, the Governor believes. (Audio here).
Utah Political Capitol contacted Adams about SB 246’s conception and how it became legislature that he is moving. He indicated that rural Utah needed this legislation to preserve jobs and that the money wouldn’t be used if ultimately it became unfeasible (Audio to come from Wednesday’s committee hearing).