Vallejo confirms delay in release of FEIR for Orcem/VMT project

Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald

Vallejo confirms delay in release of FEIR for Orcem/VMT project

By John Glidden, March 7, 2019 6:41 pm
The site of the Vallejo Marine Terminal/Orcem Americas project proposed for South Vallejo is shown. (Times-Herald file photo)

Vallejo officials confirmed earlier this week that the much anticipated release of the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the Orcem/VMT project has been delayed, perhaps indefinitely.

In a three-page letter sent to Vallejo Marine Terminal (VMT) representatives on Monday, city leaders wrote that since VMT failed to provide the necessary clarifying answers to several concerns posed by city staff, the decision was made to hold the document.

“Due to this lack of clarity, the city is pausing the release of the FEIR at this time. However, as soon as VMT lends the needed clarity to the issues discussed herein, the city stands ready to proceed,” according to the city’s letter.

City Hall told VMT in a Feb. 25 letter that the municipality was ready to release the lengthy document on March 1. However, in that communication along with Monday’s letter, the city said it couldn’t due to a lack of required signatures on an assignment and assumption agreement, declaring that 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.

VMT’s refusal to execute a reimbursement agreement to update the Environmental Justice Analysis (EJA), the company’s lack of payment to help fund completion of that analysis, its failure to provide answers to Vallejo’s data requests for the Barge Implementation Strategy and Fleet Management Plan, and the need for an accurate site map and ownership status of the property were also cited by the city as reasons it held onto the FEIR.

“The city’s concern is that several of the mitigation monitoring measures are dependent upon your funding and execution of various agreements,” officials added in Monday’s letter. “To the extent VMT is currently not providing funding and not executing agreements, these conditions which seemed reasonable when VMT/Orcem was providing funding and signing agreements are now less reasonable.

“Including them in the mitigation and monitoring plan when we do not believe that VMT will either fund them or sign the agreements necessary to put them in place is not reasonable,” the city added. “Thus many conditions, especially those reliant on employing persons as air quality monitors, are now in danger of being reclassified as being ‘not feasible.’”

Attorney Krista Kim, who represents Gilmartin and Varela, provided an official response. In a letter dated March 1, the same day as the deadline imposed by the city, Kim wrote to Shannon Eckmeyer requesting a brief extension of time.

Kim said she spoke by phone to Eckmeyer earlier in the day.

“I explained that both Alan (Varela) and Bill (Gilmartin) want to schedule a meeting with the City the week of March 11th to discuss a few important matters, as those discussions are very relevant to how VMT would respond to your Letter,” she wrote. “This request seemed to really upset you.”

Kim goes on to accuse Eckmeyer of making “threatening statements” against VMT and its ground lease.

“You rejected VMT’s request to extend the response deadline and indicated that if VMT did not respond in writing by March 8, 2019, the City would take the position that VMT has in fact abandoned its appeal,” Kim wrote. “You also threatened that if VMT did not withdraw its appeal in writing that VMT’s inaction would be tantamount to killing the project and further, that the City would take immediate action to challenge the validity of VMT’s ground lease.”

Kim said she was “taken aback” by the statements. However, the city had a different interpretation.

“We would not characterize Ms. Eckmeyer’s communications as threatening,” wrote city spokeswoman Lyan Pernala in an email to the Times-Herald. “The City’s position is as stated in the correspondence sent to VMT on March 4.”

Kim couldn’t be reached for comment regarding this article.

The two sides remain in a stalemate, as VMT asserts it has not abandoned its appeal. Meanwhile, city staff is expected to bring an update on the situation to the Vallejo City Council next Tuesday.

VMT is eyeing creation of a deep-water terminal on 31 acres at 790 and 800 Derr St. It submitted a joint application to the city with Orcem California, which is seeking to open a cement facility on the same site.

Planning commissioners voted in 2017 to reject the project. In response, Orcem/VMT filed an appeal seeking that the City Council overturn the Planning Commission decision. A divided council in mid-2017 directed staff to complete the FEIR so the council can make a decision on the appeal.

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.