Ecocem appeal over €45m California mill to be heard next month

US subsidiary of Irish cement maker refused permission on environmental grounds

  Ecocem’s US arm and Vallejo Marine Terminal, whose application for permission to build a deepwater berth to service the mill was also refused, are challenging the commission’s ruling. Photograph: Eric Luke

Ecocem’s US arm and Vallejo Marine Terminal, whose application for permission to build a deepwater berth to service the mill was also refused, are challenging the commission’s ruling. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

The appeal by Irish cement manufacturer Ecocem against a US authority’s decision to refuse it planning permission for a €45 million mill could be heard at the end of next month.

The planning commission in Vallejo, California, recently refused Ecocem’s US subsidiary, Orcem Americas, permission to build the grinding mill on the city’s waterfront on environmental grounds.

Orcem subsequently appealed the ruling with Vallejo city council. This is likely to be heard between May 30th and June 1st next.

Both Ecocem’s US arm and Vallejo Marine Terminal, whose application for permission to build a deepwater berth to service the mill was also refused, are challenging the commission’s ruling.

Waterfront site

Orcem argues that the commission relied on “subjective and arbitrary judgments” in reaching its conclusion. “Those judgments were made as a result of unfair hearing process orchestrated by a biased staff,” its appeal states.

Shortly before the decision, Vallejo city hall officials recommended that the planning commission refuse permission on a series of grounds, including increased traffic and pollution.

Orcem also wants the council to correct errors in a final environmental impact report on the project and to overturn a decision designating six buildings on the waterfront site as historic.

Local opposition

Meanwhile, students of the California State University Maritime Academy have voiced their opposition to the project. They say it threatens the quality of the surrounding environment, which includes the third-level institution’s campus.

Orcem wants to build the factory on the site of an old flour mill on Vallejo’s waterfront. It will grind furnace slag from iron smelting, which can then be used as a component in cement.

The company says this cuts greenhouse gas emissions from normal cement manufacture by 90 per cent.

It intends importing the slag from the far east, hence the need for the deepwater berth. Orcem applied originally in 2015 but met opposition from local groups whose members feared its impact on the environment.

Ecocem and its subsidiary have always maintained that they adhered to and exceeded environmental law requirements.