Category Archives: Vallejo CA

Vallejo deep-water terminal and cement facility in limbo as city deadline passes

Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald
[Editor –  Previous good news: Vallejo’s City Manager raised eyebrows about ORCEM’S deceptive paid advertising, and the CA Attorney General submitted a scathing 13-page letter.  Let’s hope Vallejo will DENY THIS PROPOSED CATASTROPHIC PROJECT!  For more critical perspective, see Fresh Air Vallejo.  For official project documents, see Vallejo’s City website.   – R.S.]

City leaders to meet; council to get progress update March 12

By John Glidden, March 1, 2019 at 6:40 pm

A controversial plan to open a modern deep-water terminal and cement facility next to the Mare Island Strait in South Vallejo appears to be at a standstill, again.

Vallejo Marine Terminal (VMT) missed Friday’s 5 p.m. deadline to provide City Hall with required information needed to complete the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the VMT/Orcem California, LLC project proposed for development on the old General Mills plant site, Vallejo’s Assistant City Attorney Shannon Eckmeyer confirmed to the Times-Herald.

“We will not be releasing the project’s FEIR at this time,” Eckmeyer said by phone.

She further confirmed city staff would be meeting internally to determine the next steps. The Vallejo City Council will receive a progress report on the project’s status during the council’s March 12 meeting, Eckmeyer said.

Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan said he was disappointed in the lack of an official response from VMT.

“We can’t come to any kind of decision without their information,” he said by phone after the 5 p.m. deadline. “We’re in a difficult spot.”

Sampayan confirmed city leaders will be meeting next week to consider various legal issues with the lack of communication from VMT.

“We don’t want to incur any liability,” Sampayan explained.

Tired of waiting, Vallejo sent a notice on Monday that if VMT didn’t respond by 5 p.m., Friday, the city would deem VMT abandoned the project.

That letter requested multiple items including documentation showing William Gilmartin and Alan Varela have assumed all responsibilities of the business from the original VMT principal Blaise Fettig and former past project manager Matt Fettig.

Gilmartin was announced as VMT newest partner in November 2018, joining Varela, who has been a partner in VMT since 2016. Both men work for the Oakland-based ProVen, a general engineering contracting firm started by Varela.

The three-page letter also asked VMT to fund its portion of the Environmental Justice Analysis report, at about $22,778, and execute the fourth amendment to the reimbursement agreement required for consultants working on the FEIR to finish their work.

“For weeks, the city has requested that you either sign or produce an existing assignment and assumption agreement that identifies the real party in interest for purposes of processing the appeal and permits,” the city wrote. “As you might surmise, we wonder who is the applicant and real party in interest for purposes of indemnifying the city in the event the project’s decision results in a lawsuit against the city.”

One of the last official communications to the city from VMT came in January when VMT sent a single page letter stating that Varela, Gilmartin, and attorneys Krista Kim and Michael M.K. Sebree were authorized to speak for the business.

“VMT is concerned that there may be correspondence with VMT that we have not seen nor read and possibly future correspondence that we need to respond to,” Gilmartin wrote in the letter addressed to Vallejo City Manager Greg Nyhoff.

Attempts to reach Gilmartin, Varela, and Kim by press time on Friday were unsuccessful.

In a Feb. 12 email to VMT and Orcem representatives and their respective legal teams, Eckmeyer explained the city cannot separate the two businesses from the joint application and appeal.

“There still appears to be unclear communication between your clients, and the city has the obligation to treat the VMT/Orcem project as a joint application and joint appeal. We cannot separate the interests of Orcem and VMT and process separate requests,” she wrote. “As you are all aware, VMT is the landowner and Orcem is the tenant, and have up until this point, processed all entitlement requests items jointly.”

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 has caused consternation with a segment of the Vallejo community, which argues the project will pollute the immediate area and harm local residents. Both VMT and Orcem deny those allegations, while also stating that the project will provide jobs and tax revenue for the city.

The Vallejo Planning Commission voted 6-1 in 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 said at the time.

City officials argued in 2017 that since a rejection was being recommended, a FEIR was not required.

Orcem and VMT appealed the Planning Commission decision, and in June 2017 when reviewing the appeal, a majority of the council directed City Hall to complete the impact report.

The project’s FEIR was expected to be released last year until leaders received a 13-page letter from Erin Ganahl, deputy attorney general for the State of California, writing that the project’s draft final environmental impact report (DFEIR), an Environmental Justice Analysis (EJA), and the Revised Air Analysis were misleading.

“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.”


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    CA Attorney General weighs in against ORCEM & Vallejo Marine Terminal

    Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald
    [Editor – view the Attorney General’s 13-page letter.  Does this remind you of the CA Attorney General’s support in our 2013-2016 fight against Valero’s dirty and dangerous Crude By Rail proposal?  Hope this helps in Vallejo – keep up the resistance!  – R.S.]

    DOJ sends letter, states reports on Orcem/VMT project are misleading

    By JOHN GLIDDEN, November 12, 2018 at 5:41 pm
    The site of the Vallejo Marine Terminal/Orcem Americas project proposed for South Vallejo is shown. (Times-Herald file photo)

    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 Vacarro, 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.

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      Vallejo March For Our Lives

      Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald

      Vallejo youth plea for action, not more gun violence in ‘March for Our Lives’

      By Richard Freedman, 03/24/18
      Around 400 people of all ages walked up Mare Island Way to Vallejo City Hall on Saturday afternoon for the ‘March for Our Lives.’ Participants called for a change in gun laws and a stop to politicians taking NRA money.
      Around 400 people of all ages walked up Mare Island Way to Vallejo City Hall on Saturday afternoon for the ‘March for Our Lives.’ Participants called for a change in gun laws and a stop to politicians taking NRA money. RICH FREEDMAN — TIMES-HERALD

      Yes, Sgt. Brent Garrick was armed. It’s required of the job. But in providing a “police presence” at Saturday’s “March for Our Lives” in Vallejo, the officer may as well have been packing a feather duster.

      All the speakers at Saturday’s ‘March for Our Lives’ at the steps of City Hall were young people, with elected officials taking a back seat as listeners.
      All the speakers at Saturday’s ‘March for Our Lives’ at the steps of City Hall were young people, with elected officials taking a back seat as listeners. RICH FREEDMAN — TIMES-HERALD

      “This is very inspiring. There’s been no trouble at all,” Garrick said, surveying about 400 who finished the half-mile march. “Young adults seem to be so much more intelligent than my generation was. They’re aware of community, social events and things that affect us all.”

      That, obviously, includes gun violence, with most of the young speakers in front of City Hall impacted directly or indirectly by guns.

      While many of the nearly 850 cities involved nationwide in “March for Our Lives” offering elected officials as speakers, this was young-people-only at the microphone. And that was fine with Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan.

      “This is outstanding,” Sampayan said of the turnout. “These people are the voices of not only our future but our present. I’m nothing but impressed.”

      The day’s message, added the mayor, “is that people of this country are tired of violence. We need to come together as people and human beings to show we care for each other. This violence has to stop.”

      The march began as the participants gathered just inside Harbor Way, with free beverages, protein bars and T-shirts distributed before the 1:30 p.m. start.

      Mike Brown, walking solo, was happy to join the masses.

      “It’s a powerful movement right now that I haven’t seen for a long, long time,” said the 63-year-old Brown. “I want to see it grow and I want to see the changes come. I couldn’t be more proud of these kids who are standing up and doing it.”

      Brown hoped the march generated “some serious changes in the laws. There’s no reason for assault weapons.”

      Barbara Gaea, a 24-year Vallejoan, said people “are so weary” of the gun violence.

      “I think the outrage level is reaching the tipping point,” Gaea said “People can’t take the insanity any more. We don’t need weapons of mass destruction.”

      Wisconsin-born Vallejoan Craig Gaines said he hopes action is taken soon because “kids need to be safe at school. There needs to be some control and deeper, stronger understanding of holding accountable those who we are going to issue guns to. We need to be more cautionary.”

      Gaines said he hopes the national impact of the walk “wakes everyone up and lets everyone realize that our children are crying out. If you can’t go to school and be safe, where can you go other than being at home?”

      While the youth takes over the reigns of the anti-gun violence movement, “we should support them,” Gaines said. “These are our leaders of the future.”

      A long-time Vallejoan, Carlo Carlucci, 70, said he was compelled to march because of “anger and grief, losing our children on behalf of the egos of stupid people.”

      Carlucci added that he’s grateful that “we have a new generation that is determined to lead us.”

      At City Hall, the young people gave brief but passionate speeches, pleading for change.

      “We need to take action and we need to save the ones we love,” said Isaiah Nickelberry, a John Finney High School student.

      “We are all fighting for the same cause so our kids and our kids’ kids will have a better future,” Nickelberry said.

      Bethel High Student Jenny Lee lamented “all the innocent lives lost” in Parkland and all the victims “who were the same age as me.”

      “All our voices should be heard,” offered Arnaz Hall, another Bethel student, saddened that every day at school, “I have to think, ‘Am I going to make it home?’”

      “Our president should stop worrying about immigrants trying to cross the border when there’s Americans killing each other,” added Hall.

      An American Canyon High School student, “Natalie,” mourned the loss of her cousin, Eric Reyes, shot and killed in 2016 and namesake of the Eric Reyes Foundation.

      “A life taken by teenagers who had guns who took a big part of me away,” Natalie said. “I miss him. I miss his smile. Someone took an innocent person’s life. I’ve had enough of this. We have seen enough senseless gun violence. We need action now, not later.”

      “We don’t want to grow up in a world where every person can say they’ve lost someone to gun violence,” said Valentina Quintana, 17, believing “the government values money over the lives of people. Mass shooting after mass shooting. Why must we wait? I say we don’t. We must vote out those who accept money from the NRA, vote out those who blame mental health for gun violence but don’t provide any services or options for those who are mentally ill. We’re the new generation and we cannot allow this to continue.”

      “None of us should be afraid of sending our children to a place they should feel safe,” said Juwanna Smith of the Sisterhood of Mothers.

      Charnette Briggs, 22, added a musical break to the speeches, singing the 1965 hit, “What the World Needs Now is Love.”

      “I chose it because there’s so much hate in the world,” Briggs said. “I was taught that we’re better together than apart. Love is a big factor.”

      Initial looking at the crowd “was a little nerve-wracking,” said Briggs. “But it feels great. I hope the president takes this (the nationwide marches) seriously. No more lives need to be sacrificed, no more lives need to be killed.”

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