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Long Beach City Council votes in favour of coal exports

World Coal,

In a resounding 9 – 0 vote, Long Beach City Council voted in favour of a 1.7 million tpa coal export project from Pier G.

The council also voted “nay” in unanimous fashion to carrying out an environmental impact study, which has drawn ire from activists and eco groups.

Coal will be shipped from the US terminal to Asia. The council’s decision upholds a June decision by the harbour commission, which approved a 15-year lease for Oxbow Energy Solutions, which is led by founder and CEO, Bill Koch, and a 20-year renewal lease for Metropolitan Stevedore Co.

The companies will be able to us a 5.4 acre site near Pier G, which comes with a coal shed for storage.

According to Press Telegram, Harbour commissioners approved the leases after finding the barn is exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act because operations have not changed since a 1992 report found that there would be no “significant adverse environmental impacts.”

Port officials present at the hearing said concerns raised by opponents — such as the transportation of coal to Pier G via uncovered rail cars — are immaterial because the situation will be the same in the new agreement and cause “no new impacts” and thus do not require a new review.

Council members ultimately agreed, as district council member Al Austin described the port operations as “world class”. Some councillors did, however, express a desire to lessen the environmental impacts of the coal exporting, though they said the interstate transport of the commodity is regulated by the federal government.

"First and foremost, you should know the facilities on Pier G are world-class operations that set the bar for environmental excellence in our industries. We are very proud of what we do here with the port," Clayton Headley, Oxbow's vice president of supply for the Pacific region, stated at the hearing.

"The assets and operations of the Port of Long Beach […] are known throughout the world as examples of how things ought to be […] Like the Port, we take our environmental stewardship seriously," Headley added.

Metropolitan Stevedore Co. has operated the Pier G coal shed since 1962 and has subassigned the facility to companies such as Oxbow, the only entity presently using the barn.

According to the port, coal exports this year are projected at 1.72 million t, down from a high of 2.35 million t in 1996. The Virginia ports of Newport News and Norfolk exported a combined 44 million metric t of coal in 2012.

Harbor Department spokesman Art Wong said earlier Tuesday that the port receives US$ 15 million/year to US$ 20 million/year from exports at Pier G, including coal, petroleum coke, soda ash and other commodities, about 5 percent to 6 percent of the port’s US$ 350 million revenue stream.

“The port is a public agency,” Wong said. “It’s our fiduciary responsibility to get fair market value for our assets.”

Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson

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