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Environmental Groups May Sue Over Plans To Store Sand, Gravel At Port Of Oakland

OAKLAND (BCN) – A group of West Oakland environmental advocates plan to sue the Port of Oakland if commissioners approve a project to bring sand and gravel to the Port without taking steps to analyze and alleviate expected pollution impacts on the community.

Advocates organized as the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project say the Port is ignoring their concerns. The project by Eagle Rock Aggregates would bring 2.5 million tons of sand and gravel to the Port each year.

The material, which would be used to make cement, would come ashore at Berth 22, and be stored on land at Berths 20-22.

"WOEIP remains hopeful that the Port will engage the community in a meaningful process to better analyze and mitigate the project's environmental harm to West Oakland," said attorney Laura Beaton, who is a partner with Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger in San Francisco and is representing the WOEIP.

If the Port does not take steps to alleviate the potential pollution impacts, WOEIP will sue to ensure the Port "meets its obligations under the California Environmental Quality Act to analyze and mitigate the impacts to the West Oakland community."

Beaton said a lawsuit will not be filed until the commissioners approve the project.

Port of Oakland commissioners took no action Thursday when the item was on their agenda.

Port spokesman Robert Bernardo said commissioners took no action because Eagle Rock Aggregates needs more time to put the final touches on a labor agreement for a full union workforce for the project.

About 18 acres of land at the Port would be used to store the sand and gravel before it is trucked to a cement plant nearby.

West Oakland environmental advocates are concerned for one about dust from the sand and gravel polluting West Oakland. Beaton said residents were told a building to cover the material is infeasible.

A Port environmental planner/scientist confirmed that view. Khamly Chuop said the Port plans to keep the sand and gravel wet rather than cover it with a building or tarp. Both the building and a tarp are infeasible, she said.

Environmental advocates are also concerned about pollution from trucks and ships. Trucks may pollute West Oakland as they deliver the sand and gravel from the Port to the cement plant. Idling ships may also bring pollution to West Oakland.

Ms. Margaret Gordon, co-director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project wants the ships that deliver the sand and gravel to plug into electric power on shore.

The Port of Oakland has made progress on reducing the pollution it creates. It recently exceeded the goal it set for reducing diesel emissions, which are down 86 percent from 2005 levels.

"The Port recognizes that we are one of the contributors to air quality in West Oakland," Port spokesman Robert Bernardo said. "The surrounding freeways which everyone in the region uses contribute to vast amount of pollutants. It's important to note that more than half of those sources are from non-Port of Oakland sources."

"The Port of Oakland has been working on air quality projects for decades incrementally and that's how we achieve our results, one project at a time, Bernardo said. "That's how we've exceeded our air quality goals."

Will this project worsen the air quality for West Oakland residents? Bernardo said that "question assumes that the Port is the single and only factor that contributes to pollution in West Oakland. That's not the case."

© Copyright 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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