VMT dropped their appeal of the Planning Commission permit-denial on May 24, 2019 and Orcem has publicly said goodbye.
David won – Goliath is dead.
The ‘why’ we won is a serious tale for any city threatened by a pollution-creating industry in residential areas – but the first and strongest reason we won was because people stood up and said “No! Cement mills don’t belong on the waterfront yards away from schools, homes and businesses.”
Highlights from this fight were the ‘No vote’ from the planning commission in March 2017, the letter of opposition from the Vallejo Chamber of Commerce, early Sierra Club support, the volunteer-developed Times Herald ads and billboard showing huge public support for ‘NO Cement’, the state commission landmark designation of Sperry Mill and the 52 page letter outlining the areas of the VMT/Orcem’s FDEIR that ‘defied logic’ from the CA Attorney General in November 2018.
Goliath had a big purse and brought their ‘A’ game. This fight was life-and-death with all the pain that brings. The shadow government was exposed. Friends gave up and moved out of Vallejo. Hardships were daily dealings. The mayor speaks of the toll this has taken on Vallejo.
Neighbors won this. Volunteers who gave what they could when they could won this. Tireless, determined, unpaid leaders who traded in most of their personal time to work on FAV’s mission won this. Courageous organizations won this. You won this.
Vallejo’s waterfront and southern neighborhoods now have a hopeful future because the 65 year cement lease has been turned away.
Now is the time to celebrate a healthy future! As we celebrate, we are also planning our next work, which is to confirm the zoning will conform to the new general plan (no heavy industry on the waterfront), and to establish an Environmental Justice Policy in Vallejo to guide all future planning decisions. That way, Goliath is stopped at the gate.
Together we can be truly proud of the healthy legacy we are building for future generations! Fresh Air Vallejo is ALL of us. It’s time for the next stage to solidify our vision of a beautiful waterfront city. Want to help? Let us know!
Fresh Air Vallejo
VMT WITHDRAWS APPEAL OF VMT/ORCEM PROJECT – MAY 30 PUBLIC HEARING CANCELLED
VALLEJO, CA – Vallejo Marine Terminal, LLC. (VMT) delivered formal notice to the City of Vallejo this
afternoon that it has elected to withdraw its appeal of the Planning Commission’s 2017 denial of the VMTOrcem Project.
The public hearing at the City Council previously scheduled for May 30, 2019 has been cancelled.
VMT applied on September 5, 2013 for a cement processing plant project on ~30 acres at the former
General Mills factory. The original project was denied a major use permit by the Vallejo Planning
Commission on February 27, 2017 due to concerns over environmental and quality of life impacts.
VMT stated in its May 24, 2019 withdraw letter that it no longer supports the project. As real property
holder, VMT’s withdraw of the appeal effectively terminates the proposed project.
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A year ago, I went to California to participate in a scientific conference. After a couple of days, my mentor and I started to have trouble breathing. As two healthy adults, we wondered why this was happening. I did not know the answer at that time, but I did notice a pattern: Other female colleagues, especially those with asthma, were also struggling to breathe, but not many men were. Our symptoms got better once we left the conference. A research study we later performed in our lab helped us understand what had happened. We discovered some differences in lung function among male and female mice exposed to ozone and other air pollutants, and we learned that females had worse symptoms than males. So something in the air caused our breathing problems.
In the past decade, air pollution has become the world’s single biggest environmental health risk, causing about 7 million deaths—nearly one of every eight—worldwide each year. According to the Air Quality-Life Index, increased air pollution concentration levels may shorten your lifespan by one month if you live in New York and by up to eight months if you live in California. Exposure to pollutants such as ozone, biomass fuels, and fine particles like soot and smoke has been strongly associated with increased mortality from lung disease. As the evidence piles up, we are starting to realize what a big problem these little molecules create—and that what you can’t see can kill you.
Researchers have shown that women are more susceptible to the negative effects of air pollution than men are. The exact reason remains unclear, but we know that men have more relative fat mass, which gives them a larger distribution volume for chemical particles in the environment. Women’s bodies also metabolize pollutants more quickly than men’s, resulting in higher toxicity. A recent study in the American Journal of Physiology—Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology has shown that sex steroid hormones are somewhat responsible for the male and female differences, indicating that both sex and air pollution may alter the effectiveness of lung immunity.
The American Lung Association offers these and other tips to help protect you from unhealthy air:
Check daily air pollution forecasts.
Avoid exercising outdoors when pollution levels are high.
Avoid exercising near high-traffic areas.
Use less energy in your home.
Explore other alternatives to driving your car (bike, walk).
Don’t burn wood or trash.
Don’t allow anyone to smoke indoors.
October 22–28 is Respiratory Care Week. Let’s help the world breathe better. Your life and the lives of your loved ones may depend on it.
By: Nathalie Fuentes OrtizNathalie Fuentes is a PhD candidate in the biomedical sciences program at Penn State College of Medicine. Her studies in Dr. Patricia Silveyra’s lab include the development of sex-specific therapies to treat lung diseases, sex differences in asthma-related lung inflammation triggered by ground-level ozone and the role of male and female sex hormones in lung disease. Nathalie is originally from Caguas, Puerto Rico.
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The site of the Vallejo Marine Terminal/Orcem Americas project proposed for South Vallejo is shown. (Times-Herald file photo)
PUBLISHED: November 12, 2018 at 5:41 pm | UPDATED: November 12, 2018 at 7:20 pm
The California Department of Justice has sent city officials a scathing letter arguing environmental documents prepared for the Orcem Americas and Vallejo Marine Terminal project are misleading and violate state law.
In the 13-page letter obtained by this newspaper, Erin Ganahl, deputy attorney general for the State of California, contends that a draft final environmental impact report (DFEIR), an Environmental Justice Analysis (EJA), and Revised Air Analysis, contain flawed data which prevents the Vallejo City Council from making an informed decision about the controversial project proposed for development in South Vallejo.
“The environmental documents for the project fail to provide adequate legal support for the city of Vallejo to approve the project,” Ganahl wrote on behalf of state Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “The DFEIR fails to adequately disclose, analyze, and mitigate the significant environmental impacts of the project; the EJA improperly concludes that the project would not disproportionately impact low-income communities of color, and thus misleads decision makers and the public by minimizing the projects significant environmental justice concerns.”
Ganahl urges city leaders to either revise, or consider recirculating the DFEIR but she and the DOJ stop short of taking an official position on the project. The impact report is required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) which identifies significant environmental impacts of a proposed development and the ways the impacts can be mitigated.
VMT has applied to open a modern deep-water terminal, while Orcem is seeking approval to operate a cement facility with both projects located on 31 acres at 790 and 800 Derr St.
The project, if built, is expected to generate 552 truck trips per day, along with 200 rail car trips per week. According to the letter, 509 of the truck trips would travel through the nearby residential community. Four large vessels, and an average of 3.5 smaller vessels are expected to be unloaded each month.
One of the more unsettling portions of the letter addresses the DFEIR’s revised Air Quality Analysis, which, according to Ganahl, suffers from significant analytical flaws.
Ganahl cites a particular flaw with the amount of proposed diesel pollution expected to be generated from the engines of docked ships.
“Based on these faulty assumptions, the Revised Air Analysis estimates an excess lifetime risk of 18 per million (unmitigated) or 9 per million (with mitigations),” she wrote. “But using the appropriate assumptions, the excess lifetime cancer risk from the project would be 627 per million, nearly 35 times the unmitigated risk and 70 times the mitigated risk disclosed in the revised analysis.”
Ganahl further argues that the Revised Air Analysis also underestimates the project’s toxic air contaminant emissions, which relies on flawed assumptions that the project will not result in any chromium, arsenic or cadmium emissions, “and will result in only minimal lead emissions.”
“In fact,” she writes “relying on appropriate assumptions reveals that the project will emit toxic air contaminants, including approximately 18 times the amount of lead disclosed in the revised analysis.”
Ganahl argues the analysis uses “inappropriate modeling techniques” that undercut the conclusions reached in the documents. She goes on to recommend that the analysis be revised using the proper assumptions.
“The likelihood that the project’s air impacts will be far greater than disclosed in the environmental review documents is troubling on its own,” she wrote. “And is more so given the surrounding communities’ already-heavy pollution burden and high rates of pollution-related illness. These analytical flaws must be cured, and the data and analysis be made publicly available, before the project is considered for approval.
“It is essential that the public and decision makers be made aware of the project’s true impacts, and that those impacts be mitigated to less-than-significant levels, if the project is to move forward,” she added.
Ganahl bashes the DFEIR for failing to consider the significant impact if coal and/or petcoke were transported through the terminal.
“The DFEIR states that the terminal would not handle coal or any other petroleum-based products,” Ganahl said. “But, the DFEIR does not point to any enforceable condition that would prevent the handling or transport of coal through the terminal or guarantee that no coal could be transported through the terminal.”
“Transportation of coal can have serious and far-reaching environmental and human health impacts,” she added.
The letter also contends the documents fail to take into account the area’s current environmental condition, which includes “the high number of contaminated sites, leaking underground storage tanks, and contributors to air pollutants such as nearby refineries and freeways.”
The letter notes the California Environmental Protection Agency, through use of a special tool, can rank every census tract in the state based off of socioeconomic, environmental, and health information.
Those numbers suggest that the area in South Vallejo ranks high for the number of sites contaminated with harmful chemicals, and impaired water bodies.
“The communities have an extraordinary high rate of asthma (99th percentile) and cardiovascular disease (96th percentile), both conditions that are caused and exacerbated by air pollution,” Ganahl wrote. “Babies born from this area are more likely than 83 percent of babies in the state to be born with a low birth weight.”
Ganahl takes aim in her letter at the Environmental Justice Analysis (EJA) prepared for the project.
The EJA reviews how a certain project might have a disproportional impact on minority and low-income communities living near a proposed site.
Calling it “misleading,” and “illogical” she explains that the analysis compares impacted areas to that of Vallejo’s general population — instead of comparing the areas to Solano County, the state, or a comparable area.
“Using Vallejo as the point of comparison skews the significance of the proposition of low-income and minority households in the impact areas because Vallejo itself has significantly greater minority and low-income populations than Solano County, the State of California and the United States,” she wrote.
A data table taken from the analysis shows that the two impacted areas have a minority population of 76.8 percent and 75.7 percent, respectively. The city has a similar minority population of 75.4 percent the same report states.
“Comparing the impact areas to the city’s populations, the EJA concludes that the impact areas do not have a significantly greater minority population than Vallejo, and thus there is not a minority population that could suffer a disproportionate impact from the project,” she wrote. “Where a project’s impact area plainly has a high proportion of minority residents — in this case roughly 76 percent minority — it strains logic to state that there is not a minority community that will be disproportionately impacted.”
Many in the local community have expressed concern that the project will harm the surrounding neighborhoods and city. Peter Brooks, president of Fresh Air Vallejo, a group opposed to the project, said he wasn’t surprised by the contents of the DOJ letter.
“Today, the Department of Justice confirmed what we’ve been saying for three years, that Orcem/VMT’s pollution and traffic would be an injustice to our community,” he wrote in an email to the Times-Herald. “It was never a good idea to propose a cement factory so close to homes and an elementary school.”
Meanwhile, Sue Vaccaro, on behalf of Orcem, inquired about the timing of the DOJ letter.
“We are surprised at the timing of the AG office’s comments, referencing a nearly 2-year-old document, rather than wait another 2-weeks to see the Final EIR, but after reviewing the AG’s comments we believe they will all be thoroughly addressed when the FEIR is published later this month,” she wrote in an email to the Times-Herald.
“Orcem and VMT’s goal from the beginning has been to provide a state of the art facility that minimizes the environmental and community impacts while providing our sustainable building materials, terminal services and living wage jobs to Vallejo,” she added. “Our understanding today is that after exhaustive analyses, the City’s environmental consultants and the regulatory agency for air quality in the Bay Area, arguably the toughest in the world, agree we have done so.”
The path to a council vote regarding the project has been lengthy. The Vallejo Planning Commission voted 6-1 in the first half of 2017 to reject the VMT/Orcem project, agreeing with City Hall that the project would have a negative effect on the neighborhood, that it would impact traffic around the area and the proposed project was inconsistent with the city’s waterfront development policy. The project also has a degrading visual appearance of the waterfront, City Hall argued.
City Hall originally completed the DFEIR — stating that a final impact report wasn’t necessary since it was recommending denial of the project.
Orcem and VMT appealed the Planning Commission decision, and during the June 2017 City Council hearing four of the council members — Jess Malgapo, Rozzana Verder-Aliga, Hermie Suna, and Pippin Dew-Costa — directed City Hall to complete the impact report before ruling on the appeal.
The city, along with third-party consultants are finishing up the impact report. It’s expected to be released this month with the City Council deciding on the appeal in January.
You can read and download DOJ letter at
By JOHN GLIDDEN | firstname.lastname@example.org | Vallejo Times Herald
PUBLISHED: November 5, 2018 at 5:59 pm | UPDATED: November 5, 2018 at 6:02 pm
Vallejo Marine Terminal was slapped with a notice of default by the city of Vallejo in late September after the business failed to pay its annual rent for property it’s leasing from the city in South Vallejo, newly released records show.
Ron Gerber, Vallejo’s economic development manager, in a letter on Sept. 26 demanded VMT pay the $98,924 rent owed for the 2017-18 fiscal year. Fiscal years run from July 1 through June 30.
Additional records confirm that VMT paid the monies owed plus a $100 late charge on Oct. 25. City Hall had given VMT until Oct. 26 to pay the back rent or face termination of the ground lease and/or legal action.
Not first time City Hall sent demand letter
When City Hall sent the demand letter in September, it wasn’t the first such correspondence about rent as records show the city and VMT have sparred since 2016 over how much rent the company is required to pay.
In July 2016, VMT paid $14,328 or 15 percent of the $95,520 total base rent owed. Then the payments stopped for nearly two years.
Matthew Fettig, on behalf of VMT, argued that for FY 2016-17 it was using the capital improvement offset option contained in the first amendment, which allows the company to deduct any “work or costs associated with actual construction” on the property. Thus, the $14,328 represented the rent for the 2016-17 year, Fettig stated.
An Aug. 3, 2016 letter from Andrea Ouse, then-community and economic development director, informed VMT officials that the city would not be applying the offset.
“There is no evidence that actual construction has occurred as a building or site development permit has not been issued,” Ouse wrote. She further demanded that VMT pay the remaining $81,192 before Sept. 1, 2016 or face default and breach of the lease.
That deadline didn’t appear to be met as both sides held a meeting in October 2016 with VMT officials arguing that through 2015 the city was on the receiving end of $761,000 in economic benefits from VMT, which sought to build a new marine terminal at 790-800 Derr St.
Fettig cited contracts with several consultants preparing the draft environmental impact report as evidence of an economic benefit to the city. VMT and fellow applicant Orcem Americas were required to pay for the consulting work.
When served with another demand letter to pay in February 2017, VMT responded that it was disputing the demand for rent since City Hall waited several months after the October meeting to start demanding payment. VMT argued that they thought City Hall had accepted the reduced rent amount.
City Hall eventually applied a tax benefit in March 2018 for the 2016-17 rent, which dropped the remaining balance to $67,840.
“Notwithstanding that there has been no actual construction on the property, in order to try to avoid a protracted dispute regarding VMT’s claim for capital improvements offset, the city was willing for the 2016-17 rent period to grant VMT an offset of the amount of the tax benefits,” wrote Gerber in an August 2018 demand letter seeking the 2017-18 rent.
Payment records show that VMT finally paid the balance of the 2016-17 rent on April 30, 2018.
VMT given rent abatement for several years
The Vallejo City Council in 2012 approved the first amendment to a ground lease contract with VMT for the land at 790-800 Derr St. The lease was originally signed in 1991 between the city and General Mills, which operated a flour mill on the site. However, starting in 2007 the lease changed hands several times following the closure of the flour mill.
City Council minutes show that the council at the time voted 6-0, with then-Councilwoman Erin Hannigan absent, to approve the first amendment. Serving on the council was Mayor Osby Davis, and councilmembers Mari Brown, Stephanie Gomes, Robert McConnell, Bob Sampayan, and Hermie Sunga.
Key provisions in the amended contract included a 33 year lease extension, plus VMT was given the ability to extend the lease for another 33-year term term.
Also, VMT was granted a rent abatement period until June 30, 2015. However, starting the next day, the company was required to start paying the base rent of $95,520.
However, VMT was given a gift as the City Council unanimously voted in July 2015 to approve a third amendment to the ground release extending the rent abatement period until June 30, 2016. Just like before, Davis, Sampayan, McConnell, and fellow councilmembers Rozzana Verder-Aliga, Jess Malgapo, Pippin Dew-Costa, Katy Miessner approved the extension.
Vallejo City Manager Greg Nyhoff said through Michelle Straub, his executive assistant, last week that for 2018-19, the city will invoice VMT in June 2019. The base rent increases from the $95,520 each year based on the Consumer Price Index.
FEIR expected to be released soon
VMT has applied to open a modern deep-water terminal, while Orcem Americas is hoping to operate a cement facility on 31 acres located at 790 and 800 Derr St. South Vallejo.
For nearly a year and a half, City Hall and along with the consultants have been working to finalize the project’s environmental impact report, which outlines potential health, noise, and other impacts should the project be approved.
Community members opposed to the project argue that if allowed the development will pollute Vallejo and be a danger to the city’s residents. The applicants disagree, stating the project is environmentally safe and will add jobs and help the city’s coffers.
A divided council in June 2017 ordered the FEIR be completed.
Prior to council review, the Vallejo Planning Commission officially rejected the VMT/Orcem project, agreeing with City Hall that the project would have a negative effect on the neighborhood. Staff further said, at the time, the project would impact traffic around the area and the proposed project was inconsistent with the city’s waterfront development policy. The project also has a degrading visual appearance of the waterfront, City Hall argued.
Orcem and VMT appealed the Planning Commission decision, with four of the council members, Malgapo, Verder-Alia, Hermie Suna, and Dew-Costa, said they wished to see a completed FEIR before ruling on the appeal.
The FEIR is expected to be released this month with the council expected to resume review the appeal in JanuaryPlease share !
Please share !Portland cement production is included in 2 out of the 3 operating modes. However, very little discussion is about Portland cement production . .
By Jay Gunkelman
I have challenged the scientific validity of the Health Risk Assessment in Appendix D-1 of the Orcem/VMT environmental impact report (EIR).
My assessment is that the Health Risk Assessment (HRA) and the modeling used by Orcem/VMT to measure particulate matter emissions is flawed. I believe:
- Orcem/VMT used the wrong guidelines for measuring the particulate matter which would emit from its smokestack.
- Orcem/VMT did not accurately measure the impacts of the particulate matter on the surrounding neighborhoods.
- Orcem/VMT selected the wrong modeling method for an urban area.
- Orcem submitted expired samples to the Lab which could not be tested properly.
- Orcem/VMT did not measure the particulate matter from material handling, truck, train & ship emissions during inversion conditions.
- Orcem/VMT used inaccurate temperature data to measure the stack emissions.
Their science in this EIR is flawed and the details are outlined in the following section… with a somewhat irreverent mnemonic being presented at the end:
PARTICLE SIZE AND BUOYANCY
The modeling option to use buoyancy to float small particles is not recommended, though it was used. The sizing level used to float particles was set arbitrarily at just under 2 microns of particle size. This is just below the 2.5-micron threshold regulators would be concerned with, but considerably larger than the actual size where particles ‘float’. Particles actually do float with air turbulence at 0.2 microns… a full order of magnitude smaller.
This might sound like just a technical issue without any real effect, except the particles at 1 micron contain over 90% of the heavy metal toxicity. They float these particles and over 90% of their toxicity out of the modeling, making the outcome much cleaner on paper than it would be in reality. The real science of particle size floatation is seen below and in the table the 0.001 particle size is one micron.
RURAL MOIDELING VS. URBAN MODELING
The applicant used RURAL modeling methods which are an option… however the conditions under which this can be selected are either based on population or Zoning, and reflect the area encompassed by a 3-kilometer circle around the proposed plant site. The 3 KM radius must have over 50% rural zoning to select the rural modeling alternative, and this is clearly not the case even with the most cursory review of the project site map. We are really supposed to be modeled as URBAN.
EXPIRED SAMPLES SENT TO LAB
The Hexavalent chromium sample submitted by Orcem could not be tested properly. Hexavalent chromium degrades and the sample submitted fell outside the lab standards which require the analysis to be done within 15 minutes, or that the sample be stabilized to a neutral level of alkalinity/acidity, to avoid valence changes. The testing lab highlighted this violation of lab standards. The samples should never have been run outside lab standards.
TRUCKS/TRAINS/SHIPS EMISSIONS NOT MEASURED
The HRA only modeled the stack… no fugitive emissions from material handling, no trains, no trucks or any other sources were included. SUPPRESSION of sources in the modeling of inversion meteorology is not proper modeling of these conditions when idling trucks and ships and train engines would add substantially to the background exposure actually experienced, if not modeled.
INCORRECT STACK TEMPRATURE
In my review I saw a stack temperatures at over 300 degrees, which at the time stuck me as just bad engineering. Losing excess heat is an expensive loss of the funds used to make heat if you do not recapture it. Most stacks operate in the 190 degree range, to not lose too much heat, so a stack exit temperature well over 300 degrees looked like a design issue… until I thought of it as a way to gain more “loft”… an additional 100 degrees of HEAT gives substantial added loft. This 300 plus degree stack exit temperature which was listed at 200 plus degrees everywhere else in the EIR… making this a suspicious “change”.
HEALTH RISK ASSESMENT IS “B.U.L.S. HEAT”
Now for the mnemonic acronym:
Buoyancy of particles that do not float
Length of time Hexavalent chromium was held was excessive
Suppression of source data in inversions
B.U.L.S.HEAT is exactly what the particulate dispersion model and HRA were built upon.
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