Environmental Groups File Appeal Against Port of Long Beach’s Decision to Extend Coal Exporting Agreements

Four environmental groups have filed an appeal against the Port of Long Beach’s recent decision to extend two export agreements involving coal and petroleum coke (petcoke).

Screen Shot 2014-06-27 at 9.45.03 AMOne agreement, between POLB and the Metropolitan Stevedore Company (MSC), is a 20-year extension agreement that will permit MSC to continue exporting coal out of POLB. The company has 27 other operation locations, including one next to POLB at the Port of Los Angeles. The POLB location at Pier G has two shiploaders which currently handle some 5 to 6M metric tons (MTs) per year, with a maximum capacity of 8 to 10M MTs per year.

The second agreement, set for a 15-year extension, is between POLB and Obxbow Carbon and Minerals, LLC (Oxbow), currently under a sublease with MSC. Oxbow currently operates out of Pier G as well at POLB and Texas City, in addition to 11 international terminals. It exports some 7M MTs across all its facilities, with their facility supporting the sole purposed of receiving, storing and vessel loading coal and petcoke to be sold for export.

Art Wong, a representative of the Port, remained clear on the Port’s defense of their agreement.

“The Board approved agreements that extend an existing use,” Wong said. “Coal shipments have been permitted at this facility for years. This type of lease approval is exempt from additional environmental analysis under the existing CEQA law.”

However, Sierra Club, Communities for a Better Environment, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Earthjustice all disagreed in their appeal. They noted that a special aspect of the agreement—a Guaranteed Minimum Annual Throughput (GMAT or Minimum Tonnage)—which stipulated economic penalties against Oxbow should the company not reach a certain export value per year of the first five years of its lease.

“It’s deplorable that a port that calls itself the ‘Green Port’ has allowed for the movement of coal and highly pollutant petcoke through its harbor year after year,” said attorney and Earthjustice representative Adrian Martinez, “and will now extend and expand those operations without any second thought to the environmental ramifications.”

According to the appeal filed to the Long Beach City Council, the hope is to enforce state law requiring an adequate environmental analysis that mainly addresses the greenhouse gas emissions from burning the coal and petroleum coke that would be exported under the agreements.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 16 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.