Thursday, June 30, 2016

Loni Hancock's Oakland-inspired coal bill passes Assembly committee

State Sen. Loni Hancock addressing the Assembly
Transportation Committee on Monday.
It appears coal won't be traveling through a port terminal in the East Bay for the foreseeable future and state Sen. Loni Hancock hopes legislation prevents others from building new coal terminals if they seek state funding for the project.

Hancock's bill, inspired by the year-long debate of shipping coal through a new bulk commodity terminal near the Port of Oakland, passed an Assembly Transportation Committee on Monday, 10-5, and was referred to Appropriations.

Hancock told the committee Senate Bill 1279 would only apply to a prohibition on new coal terminals funded with state money and not to improvements or expansion of current transport centers.

The committee vote occurred just hours before the Oakland City Council unanimously voted to ban coal shipments through the city.

East Bay Assemblymember Catharine Baker, a Republican, voted for Senate Bill 1279, as did South Bay Assemblymember Kansen Chu.

At least, one Democratic on the Transportation Committee was uncertain of the bill. Assemblymember Patrick O'Donnell, who represents Long Beach, also a major west coast port, questioned whether banning one product from shipping was a slippery slope.

"Today it's coal. Tomorrow it might be tobacco. The next day it might be the vegetarian and poultry constituency doesn't want to ship meat down the rail lines," said O'Donnell.

"One could always say that," Hancock responded, "but the fact is coal kills people.