Another Oakland Coal Ban Try Is Stupid: Is City Of Oakland Driven By Ego Vs. Phil Tagami?

The City of Oakland has lost yet another legal battle against the bulk terminal project it helped create, and against Phil Tagami, the man it once tried to get out of the project via The Tioga Report in 2011. Overall, The City of Oakland has racked up approximately $10 million in legal fees to date.

And in a post-George Floyd Murder world, Oakland could have given that $10 million to African-American community development organizations rather than getting its butt kicked in court again and again. Now, some are openly mentioning wanting to go down the same path, yet again, and have the City of Oakland try what supposedly would be another coal ban.

That’s crazy.

The people who want this don’t work within the City of Oakland, so one can’t blame it for the dumb idea, but the City’s not shooting it down, either.

That makes this vlogger wonder: are the City of Oakland, the Sierra Club, and the “No Coal In Oakland, But Truck Smoke In West Oakland Is Ok” group really just so collectively ego driven that they can’t see a way toward a compromise? The parties claim that the concerns are environmental, but a simple read of the history of the project brings that into question.

First, the City of Oakland-commissioned Tioga Report in 2011 pointed out that coal was the commodity that provided the best chance for the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal to generate a profit. Contrary to the crazy assertions that have come out of some noise-makers, Phil Tagami did not identify coal for the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal, or “OBOT”, Oakland did.

It was Phil Tagami who insisted on building an innovative and environmentally-safe OBOT facility, even to the point of firing Kinder-Morgan, and finding Insight Terminal Solutions. Why? Because Kinder-Morgan didn’t want to use covered hopper cars to haul coal, and Mr. Tagami did. So, off went the collective heads of Kinder-Morgan in 2014.


In short, between knocking off Kinder-Morgan, developing a hauling process so clean it’s considered over-kill by coal industry experts, and launching the one of the lowest emission engines available in the world to haul the rail cars, and called The Oakland Global Rail Enterprise, or OGRE, Phil Tagami has done what the very Tioga Report bet he could not do: prove he had the credibility, certainty, and capacity to build OBOT such that it would be, as now former Oakland Economic Development head Fred Blackwell said “a real gift to the environmental community.”

So, why is Oakland seemingly intent on standing in Phil’s way? What is it about Phil Tagami, or anyone who’s local and in business, that seems to cause the City of Oakland to want to find reasons to work against that person? In Phil’s case, he tried for 10 years to get The Rotunda Project, and when he finally won the right to develop it in 1998, did such a kick-ass job (no surprise here) that those who doubted him were left with their jaws dragging the floor.

Then, many of those same people doubted Phil Tagami could redevelop the 30-years-decrepit Fox Theater. And now, many of those same people have bought tickets to see concerts with legends like David Byrne in that same place.

And now, in the middle of worldwide pandemic, and with world-wide demand for coal forecast to go on the upswing, and with six American states hungry to get coal to overseas markets that want it, and with many needing basic jobs in those states and in Oakland and the SF Bay Area, and with OBOT having the appropriate environmental controls and also funding, and Oakland having got its tail kicked in court, again, one would reasonably think it’s time for the City of Oakland to give up and work with Phil and Insight Terminal Solutions.

The reason why I sought Insight Terminal Solutions as a Zennie62Media content client was that I’ve lived with the OBOT project going back to 1988, when the Port of Oakland first (at least for me) started talking about the need for a bulk marine terminal. And then, in 1991, a deepwater bulk terminal was selected as an economic priority for Oakland. Moreover, the 1996 Seaport Plan For the San Francisco Bay Area called for seven new bulk terminal berths by 2020. And over the years, I’ve seen Oakland first seemingly primed to focus on the objective of building OBOT, only to suddenly and seemingly inexplicably change its mind.

Add in Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker’s statement that the City of Oakland wasn’t aware of coal in the project until 2015, when they were the ones who found it via the Tioga Study in 2011, and that was the last straw for me. The mainstream media was acting like it was bought and paid for by the environmental lobby; some organization charged with getting out the real truth was needed. Enter Zennie62Media, Inc and Oakland News Now.

In closing, the City of Oakland should stop this awful pattern of anti-economic development practices. From not using tax increment financing to save the Kaiser Headquarters Project, to the current failure to call on the Federal Government to get emergency disaster money to it in the wake of the most destructive protests in the city’s history, to the continued spending on the legal fees for fighting Phil Tagami as if it was a drunken sailor, to the loss of the Oakland Raiders and the Golden State Warriors, the City sends the basic message that it does not really know how to create jobs.

And it sends that message at a time when Oaklanders are counting on the City of Oakland to really know what it’s doing. Our very quality of life is taking a giant nose-dive because Oakland’s government is afraid to act, and only knows how to levy taxes, file lawsuits, and stop development. That’s not a formula for economic development success.

Stay tuned.

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