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West Oakland Residents Eye Lawsuit Against Rock, Gravel Stockpile Plans At Port of Oakland

OAKLAND (BCN) -- West Oakland residents are willing to sue over a project being considered Thursday by Port of Oakland commissioners that residents expect will mean more air pollution for them.

Eagle Rock Aggregates is seeking about 18 acres of land at the Port for a place to bring rock and gravel that will be used for making concrete. Ships will bring the material to land at Berth 22.

West Oakland residents, who are being represented by the law firm Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger in San Francisco, want to sit down with the Port to discuss how the pollution impacts can be mitigated.

"This open-air terminal is going to add to the air pollution burden in West Oakland and impact the health of the people in the community," attorney Laura Beaton said.

Beaton said West Oakland already has some of the worst air quality in the nation. It's next to the Port and surrounded by freeways, she said.

The concerns of residents center around pollution from dust that will be created as well as pollution from idling ships and trucks using the area.

At a terminal in Richmond, the rock and gravel are stored in a building, Beaton said. She said Port officials have said that's not feasible in Oakland.

Residents also want to know what the Port plans to do on days when air quality is particularly bad.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District weighed in about the Port's proposal, saying it "is concerned with the significant and unavoidable NOx and PM impacts and recommends the Project more fully address Air District comments on the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Report."

NOx is nitrogen oxide, which will be produced by ships and offsite trucks. PM is particulate matter, which will be created by ships, trucks, offroad equipment and stockpiles of rock and gravel.

Port officials refused to say what measures they will be taking to minimize the dust at the project site. Instead, the Port issued a statement.

"The proposed project has several environmental-related features that exceed current regulatory requirements including electric trucks for delivery of construction materials, measures to minimize dust from the project site, and an aggressive strategy to reduce vessel emissions," the statement said.

Port officials also refused to elaborate on their "strategy to reduce vessel emissions."

But they touted the project benefits saying, "The proposed project would supply much-needed construction materials to the Bay Area, which will be used for many local construction projects that support housing, the economy, and jobs."

West Oakland is an AB 617 community, said Margaret Gordon, co-director of West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, a group led by residents aiming for healthy homes, jobs, and neighborhoods.

An AB 617 community is a community in California most impacted by air pollution and subject to the Community Air Protection Program, which aims to reduce residents' exposure. AB 617 refers to Assembly Bill 617, a law established in 2017, prompting the California Air Resources Board to create the Community Air Protection Program.

Keven Wasylyshyn, vice president of commercial operations for Eagle Rock Aggregates, did not say how his company will protect the West Oakland community from particulate matter created by the project.

He provided a statement saying, "Eagle Rock Aggregates has been working diligently with the Port of Oakland to develop a project that is consistent with the State of California's goals for reducing overall environmental impacts while also supporting the regional need for increased housing and supporting high-paying long-term local labor jobs."

Port of Oakland commissioners will consider the request by Eagle Rock Aggregates at the Board of Commissioners meeting at 5 p.m. Residents can join the meeting at https://portoakland.zoomgov.com/j/1607881576.

© 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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