West Oakland coal-export terminal
Image: yassine dokkali / CC BY-SA 3.0

Dear residents of Utah,

The Utah Legislature has fast-tracked a bill to Gov. Gary Herbert that allocates $53 million dollars of taxpayer funds to finance a proposed coal-export terminal in West Oakland, Calif. I am writing to beg the taxpayers and residents of Utah to contact Herbert to stop the coal-export terminal.

Oakland is a port city about 6 miles east of San Francisco. During World War II, thousands of black war-industry workers relocated from the deep South to work in shipyards and dangerous munitions plants in Oakland. Many of these migrants settled in West Oakland, and West Oakland neighborhoods border the Port of Oakland.

The Port of Oakland is responsible for a significant amount of air pollution, and a coal-exporting operation will make West Oakland’s pollution even worse.

There are elementary schools in West Oakland in which children “park” their asthma inhalers in boxes upon entering the classroom. The prevalence of asthma among the children of West Oakland is so high that the community petitioned the Port of Oakland, philanthropic organizations, and individuals to purchase a Breathmobile. The Breathmobile is a gutted-out bus that travels to elementary schools in West Oakland to provide asthma screening and treatment. According to the executive director for the Breathmobile, one out of three adults in West Oakland — and one out of five kids — has asthma. Asthma is among the causes for children being absent from school.

About 25,000 people live in West Oakland. The population is about 39 percent black and 13 percent Hispanic. About 31 percent of West Oakland residents are below the poverty level.

Our West Oakland neighborhood has many formidable challenges.  What we don’t need is another threat to our health.

Please call Gov. Herbert at (801) 538-1000, and ask him to stop the coal-export terminal in West Oakland.

Alfreda Wright

Oakland, Calif.