Vallejo activists cite coal transportation as new threat with Orcem project

Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown sent a representative, Stephen Hallett, to share her opposition to the project. “This is a trojan horse,” he said. “They are going to put through this toxic cement factory and then they are going to try to bring in coal. We are not going to stand for that. The people have spoken and we do not want it.”

Vallejo activists cite coal transportation as new threat with Orcem project

by Shoshana Hebshi, Redwood Chapter Communications Coordinator

Vallejo City Council does not seem to heed public opinion. While a loud majority of Vallejo residents have vocally opposed a proposal to build a “green” cement plant and deep water marine terminal in South Vallejo, the City Council has allowed the project to move forward.

Sierra Club Solano Group has been involved in the opposition for more than a year as part of a coalition fighting the project, which has been dubbed a blatant case of environmental injustice to the residents living on that side of town.

Opponents have remarked that the plant will be anything but “green,” as it will dramatically increase truck traffic, air pollution and noise pollution. They contend it is the wrong project for South Vallejo—or anywhere—in an age where we need to be combatting climate change rather than contributing to it.

During a June 26 press conference, opponents, led by Solano Group Chair Joe Feller, promulgated the idea that the marine terminal portion of the project will eventually allow coal to be shipped in and out of the port.

“Our attorneys said there were loopholes on the shipping of coal that you could drive a truck through,” he said. “The city of Vallejo is wide open. We are demanding of the city council that they pass restrictions banning the use of coal or coal byproducts in the city of Vallejo.”

Peter Brooks, president of Fresh Air Vallejo, which has been working closely with Solano Group on this issue, took to the podium to call on the City of Vallejo to become a “champion for justice and finally reject the dirty cement factory and port that an overseas corporation is trying to shove into our community.”

“The City of Vallejo is not protected from coal and coal by-products,” he said. “It’s not too late for the city to step up, to do the right thing, to block the coal trains from rolling through our community.”

The press conference included speakers from outside Vallejo, as well, including Richmond City Councilmember Jovanka Beckles, and No Coal in Oakland Member Margaret Gordon, who said, “keep it in the ground!”

Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown sent a representative, Stephen Hallett, to share her opposition to the project. “This is a trojan horse,” he said. “They are going to put through this toxic cement factory and then they are going to try to bring in coal. We are not going to stand for that. The people have spoken and we do not want it.”

Askari Sowonde, a Vallejo resident of 30 years and an environmental justice activist, said it’s time for the city to listen to the community. “I along with hundreds of thousands of people in this community, say to you: Stop it, we don’t want this here. Listen to what we have to say. It affects all of our youth, our seniors, and it affects me and those who stand behind us.”

Another local activist, Joseph Mickelson, 87, a combat veteran from Korea, who said he’ll be fighting for the betterment of our community until his “days are over,” reminded the crowd that the power is in their votes and they can use that power to give the City Council a message.

Feller said: “All the councilmembers, once they realize the threat coal has on the city of Vallejo, they will respond appropriately.”

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