OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – Hundreds gathered in Monday night to weigh in on a plan to ship millions of tons of coal through Oakland, a plan that was exposed in a KPIX 5 investigation earlier this year.

Until recently the plan to ship millions of tons of coal into Oakland had been quietly moving along.

“It’s been totally behind the scenes and the developer really hoped that nobody would ever find out that coal was coming through here, until it actually did,” said Jess Dervin-Ackerman, with the Bay Area chapter of the Sierra Club.

But once the Sierra Club and KPIX 5 exposed the secret deal, the word got out. On Monday, the public got a chance to weigh in.

At issue: A massive export terminal set to be built in West Oakland, right next to the Bay Bridge toll plaza. It would bring as many as a dozen 100-car trains a week from Utah, carrying coal for export to China or Mexico.

The developer of the project, Phil Tagami, has been so elusive, KPIX 5 had to corner him in July to get any answers.

It’s no wonder. KPIX 5 uncovered emails from Utah officials, calling news coverage of the project “unfortunate.”

“Phil Tagami had been pleased at the low profile that was bumping along,” one email said, and goes on to urge everyone to “Downplay coal and discuss bulk products.”

Tagami didn’t show up at Monday night’s meeting. But multiple sources said his company, California Capital and Investment Group, paid for the yellow shirts coal supporters were wearing.

Many of them were laborers on the clock who told us they were bused in, and those who were bused didn’t even know why they were here.

No decision is expected Monday night, but it’s unclear whether the council has the power to prohibit coal exports. The city signed an agreement that essentially leaves the council out of the decision making process.

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