August 22, 2016 Read More →

Utah Counties Drop Bid to Put $53 Million in Public Funds Into California Coal-Export Project

Lee Davidson for the Salt Lake Tribune:

Four rural Utah counties on Thursday withdrew their application to invest $53 million of public money in an Oakland, Calif., deep-water port —­ a project they’ve seen as a way to open up new export markets for Utah coal.

The move appears more technical than a sign they’ve given up on the project, although it may be a year before they submit a new application.

“We’ll continue to look at our options and be prepared to move forward,” Carbon County Commissioner Jae Potter said about plans by Carbon, Emery, Sevier and Sanpete counties.

He made the comments in an interview after those counties on Thursday officially pulled their original application for $53 million from Utah’s Permanent Community Impact Board (CIB) to invest in the private Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal planned at the site of the long-defunct Oakland Army Base.

The withdrawal comes nearly two months after the Oakland City Council voted to ban coal handling and storage within its jurisdiction. Developer Phil Tagami had warned that such a ban could kill his project, part of a 130-acre development the city had approved three years ago.

CIB money typically is used for local projects such as roads, water systems or parks to help reduce impacts on communities from mining, but the board created controversy last year by approving investing in the Oakland port to help local coal mining, which still is a major source of employment in the four rural counties involved.

Thursday’s apparently procedural move prompted the Alliance for a Better Utah, an opponent of the port investment, to issue a news release praising the counties for pulling the plug on a “questionable and wasteful” project.

“We are grateful they have finally come to the realization that this coal port is not going to happen in the wake of the Oakland City Council vote,” said the statement from Chase Thomas, policy and advocacy counsel for the nonprofit group. “We urge them to use this money as it has been intended — to invest in the communities affected by the extraction industry and to not attempt to use the money to fund another special-interest project.”

Full article: Utah counties pull Oakland port loan application, but haven’t given up on project

Riley McDermid for the San Francisco Business Times:

Four Utah counties have withdrawn their application to invest $53 million of public money in a deep-water port at the defunct Oakland Army Base, less than two months after Oakland’s City Council voted to ban coal handling and storage within its jurisdiction.

“We’ll continue to look at our options and be prepared to move forward,” Carbon County Commissioner Jae Potter told the Salt Lake Tribune.

Opponents of the coal shipping plan said that boosters for the project should start accepting that the project is dead in the water.

Phil Tagami, the managing general partner of California Capital & Investment Group, which is backing the coal depot, has been fighting to bring it fruition for most of 2016, as one local authority after another has moved to block the transportation of coal through the area.

Utah supporters, too, have been pressing the issue.

“The ability for Utah to have what California has had forever, access to the world through ports, is not a bad thing,” Utah Senator Stuart Adams told CBS.

Still, the Utah counties who withdrew their application this week said they had done so not in response to an Oakland coal ban, but instead because state regulations on how funds are administered had changed — perhaps dealing Tagami and his planned 130-acre development some new hope after all.

“On Thursday, Potter said the application withdrawal was prompted not by the coal ban but because of action by the Legislature earlier this year to approve a fund-swapping scheme that created a so-called ‘Throughput Infrastructure Fund,”‘ the SLT reports.

“He said the counties would need to apply to that fund in the future for any money for a port or other projects, so the original application was essentially moot.”

Full article: Utah counties yank Oakland port loan application, but say they aren’t giving up on coal plan

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