Insight Terminal Solutions is correcting a number of errors that appeared in the Oakland Post opinion column by “No Coal In Oakland” that was posted November 7th, 2020. To properly frame the discussion and set the record straight, we are repeating the prior Opinion piece but correcting the many embedded errors or misrepresentations.
Oct. 31 Post article regarding the Insight Terminal Solutions (ITS) plan to “phase in a ban on the transportation of coal” is riddled with inaccuracies. ITS, the would-be operator of the Oakland Bulk Commodity Terminal (OBOT), is waging a deceptive campaign to bully Oakland into submitting to the toxic effects of moving coal through the city’s waterfront.
Insight Terminal Solutions Response: What is riddled with inaccuracies is not the prior article, but the false narrative outlined in the Opinion piece.
ITS’s “plan” is for coal to be the terminal’s anchor commodity with up to 50 million tons of coal shipped in the first decade alone. It plans to phase out coal at the end of two decades. There can be no “phase out” without a phase in of the toxic substance first, and that is the core of ITS’s “plan.”
ITS response: The terminal, under its signed 66-year lease with the City, secured all California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) permits to operate a multi-commodity terminal that can handle upwards of 15 million tons annually, all of which could be coal per our lease. The 5-3-0 phase out plan to limit coal, called “The Oakland Protocol” by our CEO John Siegel, is entirely appropriate and accurate as evidenced the federal court decision that the City Council coal ban was deemed illegal and a breach by the City of Oakland of ITS’ existing lease.
This mention that coal is a “toxic” substance again turns to the false narrative of the Oakland Post opinion piece. They certainly have the right to establish their own label or adjective regarding coal, one of nature’s natural filters, but the EPA doesn’t define coal as a hazardous chemical. In fact, billions of tons are transported around the world without incident every year. These authors certainly have the right to say 1+1=3… but that doesn’t make the statement true.
Since no coal is currently being shipped through Oakland, ITS’s proposal is not a “reduction.” It is the introduction of new poisons into Oakland’s most vulnerable communities.
Insight Terminal Solutions response: Again, the piece turns to the false narrative, and is certainly misleading. Millions of tons of coal are currently being shipped through Oakland and the San Francisco Bay Area just not exported through the Port of Oakland. These millions of tons are transported without this supposed “dust” registering on any of the three air monitors that are currently operating in West Oakland [map & link] and [picture of the train in Oakland]
Currently, ITS is in bankruptcy, like many other coal companies, as the coal industry follows its bumpy path to oblivion. Instead of phasing coal in and then out, why isn’t ITS planning to concentrate on bulk commodities like “grain, soda ash, wood chips, and others” – now?
Insight Terminal Solutions response: If these authors had researched their facts before writing such an Opinion piece, they would have quickly determined that coal production and consumption is growing globally by hundreds of million of tons per year and that despite the reduction in the US, Asia currently has more coal fired power plants under construction than operate today in the US. Projected growth of 3-5 percent annually is hardly a path to oblivion. We do, however, agree that ITS is building a multi-commodity capable of safely handling other commodities even beyond those mentioned in the piece.
ITS is the successor to Terminal Logistics Solutions (TLS), originally contracted to operate OBOT. Court filings revealed that TLS was a wholly owned subsidiary of a coal company (Bowie Resource Partners, now renamed “Wolverine Fuels”). That two principals of ITS, John Siegel and James Wolff, were formerly high-level executives of Bowie could explain ITS’s continued obsession with coal.
Greg McConnell makes empty promises that OBOT coal dust will not affect anyone in Oakland. ITS is basing these claims on technologies that have never been used for coal transport — or even proven feasible — such as covered rail cars. Covered rail cars aren’t used to ship coal because they create a risk of catastrophic fire (not to mention coal dust leakage). Oakland already has more risk of catastrophic fire than we want!
Insight Terminal Solutions Response: Again, the false narrative, rail cars have been covered for decades covering various commodities including coal. One of the manufactures, Eco-Fab that appears in the ITS video, has been covering rail cars since the 1970s without incident. In fact, there are several covered rail cars sitting at the port currently [picture of eco-fab covered cars at port].
The statement that coal cars aren’t covered because such covers create the risk of catastrophic fire is absurd and entirely false. Billions of tons of coal are transported in covered holds without incident. The reason coal cars aren’t covered today in the US is that it is safe to transport coal in open cars and has been done so for more than a century. But, ITS has agreed with Phil Tagami (Phillip Tagami) to restrict coal shipments to covered cars to establish a new paradigm, the Oakland Protocol, and it is required in the lease.
The federal judge cited in the article did not determine that there is no health risk to Oakland residents. His conclusions, which pertain only to how the Council evaluated reports submitted by health experts, are being challenged on multiple grounds in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal.
Insight Terminal Solutions Response: Again, false. In addition to the Oakland News Now answer to the wrong Oakland Post Opinion, The Federal Judge who’s name is Vincent Chiabbra also stated in his ruling that rendered the Oakland Coal Ban illegal, that ITS “has proposed using bottom-release rails to unload the coal into underground dust collection systems, and then moving the coal across the facility using enclosed conveyance systems with dust control technology. According to ESA, all of these control measures would qualify as best available control technology. ESA Report at 5-12 to 5-14 (ex.14.0081-.0083); Tr. 194:22-195:7 (Evans). But the City appears to have ignored these controls (Emphasis added)… as have the authors of this Opinion piece.
The article raises the specter of bankruptcy for Oakland because of liability to OBOT if the City loses pending lawsuits. In fact, in the federal case, OBOT makes no claim for monetary damages. Zero. A separate case filed by OBOT in state court that does claim damages is tied up in a technical appeal challenging whether that case can go
forward at all. It is too soon to conclude that Oakland will be held liable for any damages.
Insight Terminal Solutions Response: This paragraph accurately states that we raised the specter of the imminent bankruptcy of the City of Oakland, so, are the authors suggesting that we, the residents of Oakland, put on blinders and just wait until the City must file for bankruptcy to react. This makes absolutely no sense that the Cityof Oakland should sit on its hands pretending they have a winning hand upon appeal and allow a Judge or the State determine its fate? The authors are aware but fail to mention that the City of Oakland will not only need fund enormous litigation fees and yes, settlement costs, but will also need to repay the State of California $242 million of funds expended for the construction the supporting infrastructure. They know this but can only fall back to their false narrative of misrepresentation and lies.
ITS plan is an unacceptable step backwards for the health The Oakland City Council, No Coal in Oakland, the Sierra Club, San Francisco Baykeepers and thousands of Oakland residents support a ban on coal storage and handling in Oakland. The of city residents.
Insight Terminal Solutions Response: ITS asks that that the authors, the No Coal in Oakland, and The Sierra Club, and San Francisco Baykeepers reach for the moral courage to step out of their self-inflicted echo chamber,state the facts rather than the false narrative of their peers, not spin the story but rather speak the truth, because the truth will indeed set them free… to see the wonderful safe job creating opportunity presented for the residents of West Oakland when the Bulk Terminal is built and operating.
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