Ecocem plans €45m ‘green’ cement mill in US despite opposition

San Francisco Bay officials lift a threat to the project but the company faces public hearing

Ecocem subsidiary Orcem Americas intends building a plant that will grind slag from iron furnaces to make cement

Ecocem subsidiary Orcem Americas intends building a plant that will grind slag from iron furnaces to make cement

 

Irish manufacturer Ecocem’s plans for a €45 million cement mill in the US face a public hearing after officials lifted a threat to declare the project abandoned.

Ecocem subsidiary Orcem Americas is seeking permission to build a “green” cement mill in Vallejo, San Francisco Bay, California, at a cost of €45 million, despite opposition from locals who fear its impact on the environment.

It emerged yesterday that Vallejo councillors are likely to meet in public on May 30th to hear an appeal by Orcem and its partner, Vallejo Marine Terminal (VMT), against planners’ decision to reject it.

The council will also consider a final environmental report on the project. It was not known yesterday if Vallejo City Hall would recommend that councillors deny the appeal.

Vallejo’s planning commission rejected the proposal in March 2017 saying the mill would have a negative affect on nearby neighbourhoods, increase traffic and was inconsistent with development policy.

Orcem and VMT appealed this to the council. Its members sought the final environmental report after hearing the developers’ challenge at a public meeting in June 2017.

Earlier threat

Local media say the hearing at the end of the month will be a continuation of the June 2017 council meeting, which heavily divided representatives.

Vallejo’s scheduling of the May 30th hearing indicates that an earlier threat from officials to declare the project abandoned – because VMT had not provided some information sought by the city – has been lifted.

Planners rejected Orcem’s and VMT’s applications to build the cement mill and an associated deep-water berth following a recommendation from Vallejo City Hall staff in early 2017.

Orcem and VMT appealed the decision on the grounds that the planning commission relied on “subjective and arbitrary judgments” in reaching its conclusion.

Orcem intends building a plant that will grind slag from iron furnaces to make cement, a process it says results in 90 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions than normal manufacture of the building material.

VMT plans to build a marine terminal where ships carrying the slag from Asia can dock and offload.

Part of the planning dispute centres on the project’s potential impact on poorer communities living close to the propose site and through which trucks carrying the cement are likely to travel. However, supporters say Orcem will bring extra employment to the area.

Pensionable jobs

Orcem has always maintained that it exceeded planning law requirements, including by paying for an environmental justice analysis, which it was not required to do.

The company’s president, Steve Bryan, has said that the project could employ at least 190 people in pensionable, unionised jobs, the number of which he has argued are declining in Vallejo.

Ecocem’s reputation is built on the fact it makes “green” cement earned profits of €2.5 million in 2017 on sales of €79.4 million. The company, which has its headquarters in Dublin, has businesses in Britain, France and the Netherlands.