By Anne Makovec

SAN FRANCSICO (KPIX 5) – The City of Oakland was in court Tuesday, engaged in a battle to uphold a ban on coal within its borders.

The legal issue at the center of the city’s fight with a local developer is over a proposed new $250 million shipping terminal at the old Oakland Army Base. The developer wants it to be a place where for coal brought by rail from Utah can be loaded onto ships headed overseas.

But the city banned coal at the Port of Oakland in 2016, citing health and environmental concerns. The developer is suing, calling the city’s regulation unconstitutional.

Representatives for the developer say the plan will bring thousands of jobs and that the coal will be transported safely in containers.

But there is also a contingency of community watch dogs who say no coal is safe.

“West Oakland is a very vulnerable community. It has very high rates of childhood asthma, we’re very concerned about air quality,” said anti-coal advocate Ted Franklin.

The city said when it agreed to let the developer build the shipping terminal, the company’s representatives said the site would not be used for coal storage and shipments, but the developers changed their minds.

“We believe a democratic process needs to air this out and there’s no way this will ever be built. But we hope this will stop right here with the court,”” said Franklin.

In court testimony Tuesday morning, developer Phillip Tagami said, “It’s been a lot of work and there’s still more work to do, so we’d like to get to it.”

The judge has to decide if the city had ample reason to rule that the coal is a substantial health hazard.

The trial is expected to stretch into next week.

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