In an effort to save the environment, the state of California has in effect gone to war with America’s coal-producing states. This Friday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a controversial bill that will cut off state transportation funding for future coal export terminals.
SB1279 is a victory for environmentalists seeking to block coal shipments from California to energy-hungry Asia, and because the state of California controls most ports that export commodities to Asia, SB1279 will affect the entire nation.
But California controls access to a large part of America’s export capability to Asia and Latin America. If this were a move between two countries, against a commodity so important to certain states, it would be considered an act of war.
SB1279 was originally introduced by California State Senator Loni Hancock (D-Oakland) as a response to developer Phil Tagami’s failed proposal to build a new coal terminal in Oakland. The project would have been funded in part by the state of Utah, which was hoping to use the opportunity to create jobs in economically depressed areas. Utah’s coal is currently shipped through ports in Stockton, Richmond, and Long Beach.
On top of the global warming effects, environmentalists believe that continuing to export coal would discourage China and other nations from investing in clean energy. “Coal is an antiquated industry and we need to accept that as a reality and not think otherwise,” argues Oakland City councilmember Dan Kalb.
Governor Brown hopes to someday eliminate all coal shipments in the state of California. “I believe action on multiple fronts will be necessary to transition away from coal,” he said.
SB1279 will prohibit state transportation funds, a vital source of money for port construction, from being used to expand current coal facilities or construct new ones. The legislation applies to any project proposed after January 1st, 2017.
Critics argue that coal should not be treated differently than other commodities and point out that the bill may actually violate federal law.
The coal debate has been growing across the West Coast as environmentalists clash with hard-working men and women who make a living through the acquisition, sale, and transport of coal. As the demand for coal in the United States declines, companies in Wyoming, Montana, and Utah look to Asia for answers – and this new legislation may have cut off their only source of profit.
“Today, people can breathe easier knowing that beginning in January no coal-related projects will receive state funding,” says Hancock. What the environmentalists don’t seem to realize is that this sort of legislation restricts growth and eliminates jobs for a working class that is in dire need of more opportunities. Hancock and her environmentalists may be able to “breathe easier” with such legislation, but they are only doing so by choking off a vast number of blue-collar workers already desperate for jobs.