Destructive Dutra Asphalt Plant Challenged
The City of Petaluma, community groups and individual citizens seek a legal remedy to protect the environment from Dutra's asphalt plant construction and operations at Haystack Landing, Petaluma, Calif.
Today, the City of Petaluma and a large coalition of citizen groups and individuals have filed a lawsuit challenging the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors' flawed approval on Dec. 14, 2011, of the Dutra Haystack Landing Asphalt and Recycling Plant. The Plaintiffs maintain that the Dutra Asphalt Plant would blight the gateway to Sonoma County and Petaluma, harm the health of residents, businesses and visitors, and negatively impact the development of our local and regional economy. The factory would injure and discourage birds, fish and wildlife which use the Petaluma River and Marsh. Plaintiffs also assert that the Dutra factory operations would also destroy the peace, beauty and appeal of the very popular and adjacent Shollenberger Park.
After actively participating in the County's review and approvals process over the past three years, the City of Petaluma, community organizations including the Petaluma River Council, Friends of Shollenberger Park, Madrone Audubon Society and Petaluma Tomorrow, along with thousands of individual citizens, are frustrated and disappointed that this project has been approved. The Plaintiffs have exhausted all other remedies with the County, and are left with no choice other than to seek judicial review of the approvals process and the impacts of the project itself.
"The County's review and approvals process, and the Dutra project itself, are littered with numerous serious and irresponsible flaws," said Petaluma River Council Director David Keller.
The County failed to properly apply the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the county's General Plan, and land use law to identify the impacts caused by the project, to find alternatives that were less harmful, and to mitigate damages that were not otherwise avoidable, as required by the law. CEQA was put in place by the State of California to help ensure that our landscape, environment, health and well being would be protected from harm. The County failed to properly produce the CEQA-required single, clear, comprehensive and comprehensible Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the entirety of the project, leaving the public, other agencies, and the decision makers ill-informed about project components, impacts and problems contained in the final plans approved.
Sheri Chlebowski, President of Moms for Clean Air, stated: "Our children's health and the welfare of all of our City's residents must not be put at risk for the financial profit of one company."
The errors and omissions include:
- a patchwork of disorganized addenda and conclusions inadequately describing an ever-changing project without supporting analysis;
- erroneous and misleading mapping of the River's navigable waterway and high-pressure PG&E gas transmission pipelines located under Dutra's riverfront parcel;
- unmitigated traffic congestion and diesel exhaust air pollution from over 145,000 truck trips per year;
- failure to accurately and adequately address significant loud noise, odors, toxic and noxious emissions of gases and dusts from the asphalt manufacturing operations;
- the assertion that the project is "river-dependent," when in fact it does not include any barge and tug transport and unloading of rock, gravel and sand at Dutra's properties. The project thus does not qualify for zoning and land use changes, and could be located on a less environmentally-sensitive site.
- the County ignored the fact that sufficient, unused asphalt manufacturing capacity to serve the North Bay region's needs already exists without Dutra's factory, as stated in the Draft EIR.
- the County failed to find any agreement by Shamrock Materials to make their adjacent property and barge landing facilities available to Dutra for receiving, unloading and transporting some 500,000 tons of sand and gravel components for asphalt production. Shamrock, as an integral component of the approved Dutra project, underwent no environmental review, even though the county has required destruction of .48 acre of wetlands on Shamrock's property to construct a conveyor belt to Dutra's site.
- the County failed to honor and abide by the November 1998 Sonoma County voters' decision to protect the Dairy Belt Scenic Corridor against intensification and industrialization of agricultural and commercial lands. This voter-protected Scenic Corridor, in an area paralleling Highway 101 from the Marin County line to the southern edge of Petaluma, includes the Dutra parcels. Instead, the County dismissed the voters' mandate and changed the land use and zoning to give Dutra the industrial designations that they wanted, without seeking the voter approvals required for that change.
"Our county's elected officials have failed to use the laws in place to protect the electorate and the environment. Public parks and trails are crucial for the health and well-being of the community, especially in tough economic times, and must be protected," said Joan Cooper, spokesperson for Friends of Shollenberger Park.
After some 100 years of abuse, filling, diking, development and destruction, the tidal wetlands of San Francisco and San Pablo Bays, along with their important tributaries such as the Petaluma River and Marsh, have been undergoing revitalization, renewal, restoration and preservation during the past 40 years. These tidal wetlands and rivers are essential to our region for fish and wildlife, water quality, recreation, commerce and flood management, and are the foundation of our regions' attractiveness and wealth. Millions of public and private dollars have been invested in the restoration and preservation of the upper Petaluma River and Marsh, including the city-owned Shollenberger Park, Alman Marsh, and the Ellis Creek Water Recycling facility with their popular trails, vistas and wildlife. Building and operating the Dutra asphalt manufacturing factory in the midst of these publicly-owned natural resources would destroy the work done by thousands of people and businesses, striving to return the river gateway for Petaluma and Sonoma County to its vibrant and productive identity.
The County's Brown Act violations are a significant barrier to public participation.
The County further compounded the erroneous and inadequate project review under CEQA by committing serious Brown Act and procedural violations. The Plaintiffs are demanding that the Board of Supervisors correct the substantial flaws of their December 14, 2010 public hearing and project approvals. The Board of Supervisors denied the public its right to comment on over 100 pages of critical new information released just hours prior to this final meeting. These documents were released without proper notice and distribution to public and agencies which had requested notification. No one from the public, including Petaluma's elected officials, were allowed to comment on the new information prior to the Supervisors vote to approve the project. The Supervisors also did not properly introduce and approve the two resolutions and ordinance approving the project and the environmental report and changing the land use designations for the site. This is a violation of state law and good public policy.
"We are proud of the important work done by residents, businesses and organizations in Petaluma to protect our community's values, well-being and economy. The City of Petaluma unanimously joins with them to defend and protect our city and the gifts that surround us," said Petaluma Mayor David Glass.