Baykeeper helped to facilitate Oakland’s coal ban — and now Richmond’s too.
You can commemorate almost anything by naming a beer after it.
And with its piney, slightly hazy Baykeeper IPA — newly available for the first time ever in cans — Anchor Brewing champions an Oakland-based nonprofit that’s helping East Bay cities become coal-free.
Richmond’s City Council voted unanimously this week to ban coal-storage and handling citywide. Oakland’s City Council voted unanimously to ban coal in 2016.
That’s largely down to Baykeeper — whose dogged observation, research, and legal efforts have been cleaning local waters since 1989.
Baykeeper’s main opponents are industrial “bad actors,” said executive director Sejal Choksi-Chugh during a recent patrol in the nonprofit’s small boat, which is depicted on the new cans of Baykeeper beer.
The boat’s first stop that day was Richmond’s partly recreational, partly residential, partly industrial marina.
That’s where, nearly a decade ago, Baykeeper first locked horns with the Levin-Richmond Terminal Corporation, whose facility transfers about a million tons of Utah-mined coal every year from trains to Japan-bound ships.
When Baykeeper began monitoring LRTC’s waterfront procedures, coal dust was being blown into the air from open-topped conveyor belts “and petroleum coke was falling between wooden slats directly into the bay,” Choksi-Chugh said.
Baykeeper filed suit against LRTC in 2012 — “and they fought back tooth and nail. They tried to put us out of business — but we’re Baykeeper, so we don’t back down,” said Choksi-Chugh, an attorney who attended Berkeley Law because of its strong eco-justice focus.
That lawsuit and other efforts played a role in this week’s unanimous vote — which was not an easy slam-dunk.
“The fact that the Richmond City Council [was] even debating whether to keep coal out of the Richmond Marina is astounding to me. Instead, they should do whatever it takes to protect their residents at all costs,” Choksi-Chugh said.
Baykeeper targeted coal-related industry in Oakland “after we received calls from residents who were finding black dust all over their cars,” she remembered.
“We knew we had to help Oakland.”
From Richmond, the patrol boat chugged to Richardson Bay, between Sausalito and Belvedere, where derelict sailboats and motorboats are occupied by homeless squatters who dump raw sewage and other refuse directly into the water.
There and in Oakland, many boats are abandoned by owners unwilling to finance their upkeep.
“Oakland had a boat-related police officer for a while, but that program was de-funded — so the problem’s getting worse,” Choksi-Chugh said.
Then the patrol boat passed what might be America’s most panoramic sewage-treatment plant, hugging the Marin County waterfront near the Golden Gate Bridge.
Baykeeper monitors dozens of sewage-treatment plants and has acted against those in Berkeley and Oakland.
“Oakland has a history of misreporting” its spillage, Choksi-Chugh said.
At a party six years ago, she met Anchor Brewing’s then-CEO Keith Greggor — who had never heard of Baykeeper.
“After I told him about us, he said, ‘You mean no government agency is doing this work, but you are?’ I said, ‘Yes. So when is Anchor going to make a Baykeeper beer?'”
Plans were made, but in the interim Anchor was sold to Japan’s Sapporo Holdings Limited — and Choksi-Chugh despaired.
“They’re an international company. They’re not gonna care about little Baykeeper,” she said.
But they did. Made with Nugget, Eureka, Calypso, Cascade, and Amarillo Cryo hops along with Admiral Gallagher’s Best malt from Alameda’s Admiral Maltings, the golden and fruit-forward 7 percent ABV Baykeeper IPA debuted in 2018.
“When you do a collaboration between a brewery and an outside entity, you try to find the right spirit and put that into the beer,” explained Anchor’s brewmaster Scott Ungerman.
“How to match this beer with the concept of protecting San Francisco Bay?” Ungerman mused.
“To me, Baykeeper IPA echoes that feeling you experience when you come off the water and get salt spray in your face: that freshness, that cleanness, that hint of surprise.”