OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – The public will soon get a chance to weigh in on what, until now, has been a hush-hush plan to bring millions of tons of coal into the Bay Area.
KPIX 5's Christin Ayers first reported on the coal deal earlier this month. She finally caught up with the developer who stands to make a lot of money on all this.
We've been trying to interview Phil Tagami for weeks about plans to bring 3 million tons of coal by rail from Utah to a new export hub he's building in West Oakland.
In December of 2013, Tagami denied coal would be part of the project, saying in a newsletter that a "purported plan to develop a coal distribution facility" was "simply untrue."
So what happened?
"I stick by my comments," Tagami told KPIX 5.
"So you will not be bringing coal through Oakland?" we asked.
Tagami responded, "You have to understand I am the developer of the Oakland Global Project, and at the time that those statements were made, our focus was building a multi-commodity terminal. The company we were working with at the time had plans for iron ore."
But now Tagami is working with a new company, run by former Port Commissioner Jerry Bridges.
Tagami said Bridges is now calling the shots. Bridges told KPIX 5 two weeks ago: "When coal comes through Oakland it will be a very positive thing."
Oakland city councilman Dan Kalb says it's a Tagami project through and through.
"My belief is that he does have control over that. He gets to choose who he hires or who he contracts with to be the operator and manager of this facility," he said.
KPIX 5: "Can't you take some responsibility for whether that is going to happen or not?"
Tagami: "I am taking responsibility for delivering the project. And that is my focus."
KPIX 5: "Isn't it shirking responsibility for the product?"
Tagami: "I really don't think so."
Tagami insists his deal with the city allows him to import and export whatever he wants.
But Councilman Kalb said nobody ever expected coal to come through town. And whether Tagami likes it or not the public needs to have their say.
"The development agreement does have provisions in there, very clear, in writing, about the city retaining rights to enact health and safety regulations. There is a lot of misinformation out there and so we want to have a public hearing get the facts straight," said Kalb.
The project is on the former Oakland Army base, which is now city-owned land. A public meeting is scheduled for September 21st.
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