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Published on October 02, 2023
Port of Oakland Settles Dispute Over Gravel Facility, a Win for Environmental Justice in West OaklandSource: Google Street View

In an effort to balance environmental justice with development needs, a dispute over the building of a sand and gravel facility at the Port of Oakland was settled between the concentrated efforts of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP) and port authorities. Under the deal, construction will continue with strategies in place to minimize adverse effects on the West Oakland community, a predominantly low-income, diverse area that has often shouldered the burden of environmental inequalities.

Suing the port authorities in March 2022, WOEIP alleged that approval was given for the construction of the terminal, to be run by Eagle Rock Aggregates, without assessing its implications on West Oakland residents. The settlement now zeroes in on pollution mitigation measures that could affect the neighborhood. California Attorney General Rob Bonta, who intervened in the lawsuit in August 2022, has committed to protecting at-risk communities such as West Oakland as per the California Department of Justice.

West Oakland's history is stained with instances of environmental racism and injustice, tracing back to its time as a bustling industrial hub. A report from the Alameda County Public Health Department in 2008 featured notable disparities in life expectancy between Black and white residents in various neighborhoods, a consequence of the neighborhood’s polluted history. 

The agreement with port authorities will involve steps the quickly implement the use of zero-emissions vehicles at the terminal, build power outlets to reduce emissions, utilize shore power to minimize ship pollution, and frequent reporting for community review. A new air quality analysis is being conducted that will also influence future port projects.

The settlement, according to Margaret Gordon, co-director of WOEIP, is but another step towards promoting environmental justice in West Oakland. "For 25 years, the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project has fought to diminish the lethal impacts of emissions from the freight industry around the port… This settlement is another step in the correct direction to safeguard the health and welfare of the people ‘just across the freeway’ from the Port", as reported by Oaklandside.