Businessmen who want to export coal from Oakland promised to pay money to environmental groups and churches in exchange for their support.

Old King Coal's still got some crony kick in him.
Old King Coal’s still got some crony kick in him.

Everyone likes money. Left. Right. Up. Down. Timber clear cutter. Enviros. They all need moola to do their thing. And sometimes that puts people in weird places. Sometimes unethical places. Occasionally illegal places.

(From The East Bay Express)

In a series of quiet meetings, the businessmen behind a plan to export millions of tons of coal from the Oakland waterfront have offered local churches and environmental organizations money in exchange for their support, the Expressfirst reported on its website on Monday. According to several sources with firsthand knowledge of the meetings, Jerry Bridges and Omar Benjamin, both former Port of Oakland executive directors who now lead Terminal Logistics Solutions (TLS), the private company that wants to export the coal from the redeveloped old Oakland Army Base, met with leaders of West Oakland environmental organizations and several churches to offer them potentially millions of dollars if they would agree to back their plan. Bridges and a paid lobbyist have also been speaking at influential Oakland churches to rally support for coal.

According to Brian Beveridge of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, Bridges, who is the president and CEO of TLS, and his business partner Omar Benjamin, who is senior vice president of the company, contacted the environmental group about two months ago and asked for a meeting. Beveridge and Margaret Gordon, also of the environmental group, met with Bridges and Benjamin for lunch at Nellie’s Soulfood Restaurant and Bar near the Port of Oakland. “They said they’d be willing to offer us twelve cents a ton of coal [shipped through Oakland], placed into some kind of community fund that the community could do with as they please,” Beveridge said. “They suggested, ironically, it could support a health clinic, but I think the irony was lost on them. They said they’d be happy if we managed that fund, and they’d give our organization this money to do that.”

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