Gov. Jerry Brown Signs Sen. Hancock's Ban on State Funds for Coal Projects


State Senator Loni Hancock opposes using public funds to subsidize the coal industry. - BERT JOHNSON
  • Bert Johnson
  • State Senator Loni Hancock opposes using public funds to subsidize the coal industry.
State Sen. Loni Hancock's bill to ban the use of funds for coal-related projects was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown today. The new law makes it all the more difficult for coal companies to find a route through California to overseas markets.

"In California, we’re divesting away from thermal coal in our state pensions, shifting to renewable energy and, last year, coal exports from California ports declined by more than one third, from 4.65 million to 2.96 million tons," Brown wrote in his signing statement enacting the law.

See also: The Senator Versus Coal

The law specifically bars the California State Transportation Commission from allocating public funds for any projects that would help to build new coal transportation facilities.

Hancock drafted the bill in response to a controversial plan to build a coal export terminal in Oakland.

Oakland real estate developer Phil Tagami and Jerry Bridges, the former executive director of the Port of Oakland, proposed last year to build a coal export terminal on the former Oakland Army Base, located at the foot of the Bay Bridge, that would be capable of shipping up to ten million tons of coal each year to overseas markets. The plan ran into opposition from labor and environmental groups, and earlier this year the Oakland City Council passed an ordinance banning the storage of coal. The city ordinance virtually killed the project. But the city has already sunk millions of local and state funds into infrastructure improvements that would have benefitted the coal terminal.

Tagami and Bridges have threatened to sue the city over the coal ban, but recent downturns in the coal markets call into question the economic viability of their plan.

Although Hancock's bill wouldn't stop the Oakland plan, if it is somehow revived, it would prevent any new project from obtaining state transportation funds.

"Today, people can breathe easier knowing that beginning in January no coal-related projects will receive state funding," said Hancock in a press statement.

Brittany King, the conservation program coordinator for the Sierra Club's San Francisco Bay Chapter, said the new law shows that coal has no place in California's existing power system, or its export economy.

"California is not interested in enabling a planet-killing industry," said King in a statement.