Stopping construction of a dirty cement factory in Vallejo
The Vallejo Marine Terminal (VMT) is a proposed deep water port designed to bring slag from China and/or Japan for a proposed plant—Orcem—to grind into cement on the Vallejo waterfront at the mouths of the Napa River and Mare Island Strait. The Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for this proposed project was released in September 2015, and Fresh Air Vallejo formed when a group of near strangers came together to read and analyze the 788 page DEIR and 3,000 pages of exhibits. These citizen-analysts found that the Orcem/VMT operation would reactivate long-unused railroad tracks that bisect Vallejo, and would generate hundreds of trucks daily on city streets, through residential neighborhoods and near playgrounds and schools. The trucks would dump 70 tons of NOx and dust in our air every year, 1320 feet from an elementary school, further sickening neighborhoods that are already reeling from the highest asthma and cancer rates in California — two times the state average by some estimates.
Fresh Air Vallejo also discovered that project applicants refused to say whether the slag would be shipped from China or from Japan, whether it would be steel or iron ore slag, or even the number of semis that would cross town daily.
On June 1, 2017, staff was ordered to work with Orcem/VMT on a “finite and stable project description.” When the July 15 deadline passed without a description, Vallejo’s city council gave them an additional month. Now almost two years since the DEIR was released, Fresh Air Vallejo and the public still cannot get a definite description of the project.
Orcem/VMT expected to get their permits and permissions in December 2015, and expected to be operational by July 2016. Instead, Fresh Air Vallejo raised the alarm in the Vallejo community about the environmentally destructive project and its disproportionate impact on communities of color. Through town hall meetings, signs, flyers, and a consistent presence at the Farmer’s Market and in city council chambers, Fresh Air Vallejo inundated the city and the applicants with comments, questions, and concerns regarding the DEIR that they still have not been able to address, which has delayed finalization of the DEIR and any subsequent issuance of permits..
Fresh Air Vallejo has the support of dozens of organizations, including the local Sierra Clubs, the ILWU, the Vallejo Chamber of Commerce, the Sunflower Alliance, and Richmond Progressive Alliance, to name a few. The Vallejo Planning Commission overwhelmingly rejected the projects, and Vallejo city staff recommended the same. A majority of the city council, however, continues to support these applicants, so the fight continues.
You can read more about Fresh Air Vallejo’s fight at www.freshairvallejo.com, or view a video on YouTube that gives a drone’s-eye view of the waterfront environment that would be affected by the Orcem/VMT project should it go forward.
UPDATE – 14 Sept 2017: An op-ed piece was published today in Vallejo’s Times-Herald, Sierra Club Solano Group: Orcem a bad idea. Excerpting from the piece:
The marine terminal portion of the project opens Vallejo up to shipping coal, which goes against Sierra Club’s stance to avoid coal at all costs at a time when we must meet greenhouse gas reductions. A promise to follow a compromised EIR is not enough. Like a similar ban enacted in Oakland, we demand a total ban on the shipping of coal from the remaining 35 acres of the port project.
The Solano Group of the Sierra Club has not taken its opposition lightly. As Sierra Club speaks with one voice, we have consulted with leaders from our regional, state and national organizations. Each level of the club supports our stance and considers the VMT/Orcem plant a dangerous project with both proven issues and potential impacts that will reverberate across the entire country.
The full statement from the Solano Group of the Sierra Club is available at the Vallejo Times-Herald Online website.