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Dutra Asphalt Plant – PWA’s Position Statement

Dutra Plant

Dutra Materials wants to build an asphalt plant just across the river from Shollenberger Park. There is much denial about the project’s shortcomings by Dutra on their website, their public comments, and their advertisements. Here are the real facts:

Fact #1 – Manufacturing asphalt does generate particulate toxins and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Most VOCs are aromatic or polyaromatic compounds that are highly toxic and carcinogenic. According to three different process engineers, VOCs can only be removed from the manufacturing air discharge stream by either afterburners or catalytic converters. Dutra refuses to install either system on their plant, but does offer to use bag filters which remove particulate toxins but not VOCs. According to the Bay Area Air Quality Board, the manufacture of rubberized asphalt makes even more VOCs than regular asphalt. Road construction websites predict that Caltrans will require 50% use of rubberized asphalt over the next few years.

Fact#2 – Asphalt plants can very easily get “out of control” and emit higher levels of toxins. This was shown when Dutra took several Petalumans to Irvine CA to show them a modern, “contained” asphalt plant in operation to convince them of how pollution-free the process was. The plant was making rubberized asphalt and within 30 minutes all of them were sick from the fumes just because “a door was not working.” Integrity and attention to details are critical in this business.

Fact#3 – As noted for all to read in the Marin Independent Journal, Dutra’s record of operating within their permits and respecting their neighbors has been poor. Such issues as Dutra investigated by the Marin County Grand Jury, under court order to follow their permits, and “stop running roughshod over their neighbors”, fined $750,000 by EPA for dumping into a marine preserve, and other violations all make for good but frightening reading. Do you think for one minute that Dutra will change their behavior at a new plant upwind and next to Shollenberger Park?

Fact#4 – Dutra will exceed legal air pollution and noise limits but is unwilling to fully contain their plant to significantly reduce either pollution problems. This shows their total disregard for the users of Shollenberger Park or the wildlife (including several endangered and threatened species) that live there.

Fact#5 – The people of Petaluma are connecting the dots and seeing how a mix of the above facts 1-4 will undoubtedly cause periodic significant releases of toxic chemicals and distressful noise into Shollenberger Park, producing negative and probably injurious effects on park users, both human and nonhuman. Over 300 Petalumans showed up at the last Board of Supervisors meeting on 3 February, 2010 to protest the project. Spoiling the most beautiful nature park in the county and jeopardizing public health to make more asphalt when the county already has three asphalt plants meeting its needs, is unconscionable and totally unacceptable.

DUTRA WINS (for now) On 14 December 2010 the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, without allowing more public comment, approved the Dutra asphalt project by a vote of 3/2 (Kerns, Kelly, Carrillo). The citizens of Petaluma (and elsewhere) are enraged and have evaluated their legal strategies. A lawsuit was filed against the Dutra decision on 14 January 2011. Plaintiffs include the Petaluma River Council, Madrone Audubon, Friends of Shollenberger, the City of Petaluma, and a number of local citizens. If you are against Dutra Materials building an asphalt plant across from Shollenberger Park and want to help continue the legal fight, please consider donating to our ongoing legal expenses. You can send a tax-deductible contribution to the O.W.L. Foundation (Open Space and Water Resource Protection and Land Use), 1390 North McDowell Blvd., Suite G-306, Petaluma, CA 94954. On the memo line of your check write “Save Shollenberger”, or “anti-Dutra Lawsuit.” The O.W.L. Foundation is the fiscal arm of the Petaluma River Council, which has mobilized the legal efforts against this asphalt plant project. One hundred percent of these contributions will go toward our legal expenses. Thank you for your support.

In December 2011, the judge in Sonoma County Superior Court ruled in favor of Dutra. This was not totally unexpected given the circumstances. An appeal is seriously being considered by the community which must be filed within 60 days of the December judgment. All those who support the fight against the asphalt plant should continue to send donations to support the appeal.

February 3, 2012 Appeal Filed: City of Petaluma et al. v. County of Sonoma et al.
Bittern Subject: City of Petaluma et al. v. County of Sonoma et al., Case No. SCV 248948. The City of Petaluma, community groups, and individuals filed an appeal of the Sonoma County Superior Court’s decision, which had denied all claims in the lawsuit against the County’s approval of the Dutra Asphalt Plant project.  The case will be heard at the California Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

September 25, 2012: Final Appellants’ Reply Brief filed in Court of Appeals City of Petaluma, et al., v. County of Sonoma, The Dutra Group, et al. This is the last filing of briefs in the appeal of Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Chouteau’s decision in the suit against the County’s approvals of the Dutra Asphalt Plant adjacent to Shollenberger Park just south of Petaluma. The plaintiffs have filed the Appeals Brief and the County and Dutra filed Opposition Briefs. The date for the trial at the Court of Appeals is still somewhat in the future: the Court of Appeals may take several months before actually setting the trial date, and the trial date could be as much as a year from now.

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