Mayor Commentary: Wrong place for asphalt plant

By Pamela Torliatt, Mayor of the city of Petaluma and chairperson of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

Published: Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 7:27 p.m.

For many years, the city of Petaluma’s economic stimulus strategy has focused on our unique environmental and ecological attributes along the Petaluma River.

The city, working with the Coastal Conservancy, Sonoma County Open Space District, National Parks Services, private companies and non-profit organizations, has invested millions of dollars to build eco-tourism and attract environmentally friendly businesses to Petaluma. The proposed Dutra asphalt batch and recycling plant puts this huge investment at risk that more than 150,000 people visit and enjoy annually.

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has indicated they are prepared to amend the Sonoma County General Plan land use and text, amend the Petaluma Dairy Belt Area Plan, rezone property, authorize a Design Review Permit for a new industrial operation along a scenic corridor and in a scenic design area and approve a conditional use permit to accommodate this project.

The county has spent millions of dollars on these planning documents, products of extensive public input. In order to make changes to these plans, there should be overwhelming public support. Not only is there a lack of public support, the Petaluma City Council is unanimously opposed to this proposal.

The intent of the Sonoma County General Plan is to protect and enhance the gateway to Sonoma County and the city of Petaluma. The visual impacts of the asphalt plant’s two 70-foot asphalt emission stacks and storage silos cannot be overcome through mitigation. These emission stacks are not what Sonoma County residents ever envisioned for the entrance to the wine country or historic downtown Petaluma.

Don Bennett, Supervisor Mike Kerns’ appointee to the Sonoma County Planning Commission, unfortunately is misinformed about the level of scrutiny the Petaluma City Council and I as mayor of Petaluma have applied to studying the impacts of this proposal. Much information was analyzed and vetted, including air quality impacts.

The threshold for diesel emission impacts is calculated with a level of significance of one (1.0). This project reaches a level of .97. This impact is calculated from property line to property line. I am chair of the Bay Area Air Quality Manage-ment District, and we see an increase in situations where a use, such as an asphalt plant, is proposed in an area where the project’s impact alone may not be significant, but the cumulative impacts of the surrounding uses create a significant health risk. Because this project is located adjacent to one of the largest diesel particulate generators — Highway 101 — and other businesses, this project, in a cumulative analysis, would have a significant air quality impact.

The health risks for diesel emissions are analyzed over long-term exposure versus acute or short-term impacts. Adjacent businesses, recreational and wetland areas will be impacted on a daily basis.

Mr. Bennett discounts the overwhelming public opinion against the plant with: “All this despite the fact that Dutra has been operating a less environmentally friendly plant in the same area for a great long time without a single protest or evidence of pollution.” This is simply not true.
Actually, according to the Bay Area Air Quality Man-agement District records, Dutra’s asphalt operation has not operated since Nov. 1, 2007. They were shut down by BAAQMD after receiving two notices of violation because they were operating without a permit and they failed to meet Best Available Control Technology (BACT). In addition, since 2000 Dutra has received a variety of notices of violations from BAAQMD.

The findings required to amend the Sonoma County General Plan cannot be made to allow this project to be constructed in this location. The residents of Sonoma County want a sign saying, “Welcome to Petaluma and Sonoma County, a green, sustainable place to live, work and visit,” not “Welcome, please ignore the 70-foot asphalt emission stacks.”


  1. As always, right on the mark, Mayor/Pam.
    And again, thank you for all you do for Petaluma and the greater good of all our inhabitants.

  2. Will Save Shollenberger Park attend the Tour of California to gather petition signatures? Cyclists and numerous fans are likely supporters, one imagines.


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