Irish firm’s $10,000 donation to US city election candidates

Californian city’s planning commission due to consider Orcem’s factory plan this month

Irish cement firm Ecocem backed candidates in the recent city council elections in Vallejo, California, where its plan to build a factory has met strong opposition

Irish cement firm Ecocem backed candidates in the recent city council elections in Vallejo, California, where its plan to build a factory has met strong opposition

 

Irish cement maker Ecocem backed a number of candidates in the recent city council elections in Vallejo, California, where its plan to build a factory has met strong opposition.

Ecocem subsidiary Orcem Americas wants to build a grinding mill in Vallejo, close to San Francisco, but locals, who fear its environmental impact, are campaigning against the plan.

The company was named as one of a number that contributed a total of $90,000 (€85,000) to an organisation called Jumpstart Vallejo, which funded a number of candidates in the Californian city’s recent council elections.

Orcem Americas gave $10,000 (€9,465) to the organisation while Vallejo Marine Terminal, which will provide the mill with a deepwater berth, gave $12,500 (€11,800). Documents filed with the city clerk show details of the donations.

US and California laws allow groups such as Jumpstart Vallejo to use donations from individuals and businesses to fund election campaigns for candidates they support. The cash goes to campaigns rather than direct to the individual and rules require the details are to be made public.

Council candidates

Jumpstart Vallejo is a coalition of business, labour and other interests. In a recent letter, it warned that potential investors needed to be certain that the council would treat them fairly and follow its processes in “a timely manner”.

It aided two successful council candidates, Rozzana Verder-Aliga and Hermie Sunga. A third council runner, Latressa Wilson Alford, whom it backed, failed to get elected.

The group supported Vallejo planning commissioner Landis Garden for mayor, but he also failed. The city’s new mayor is Bob Sampayan.

The seven-member council could ultimately end up ruling on Orcem’s application. The local planning commission is due to consider the company’s plans at a meeting later this month.

If the Ecocem subsidiary succeeds in getting planning permission, local opposition groups are likely to appeal the decision to the city council. If the commission does not give it the go ahead, Orcem itself could appeal the ruling to the council.

Grant permission

A recent city hall planning staff report called on the planning commission not to grant permission to Orcem. However, that is not binding, so the company’s application could still succeed.

Ecocem’s subsidiary intends 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 is then used as a component in cement.

The process emits just 10 per cent of the greenhouse gas produced by normal cement manufacture. Ecocem proposes shipping in the slag from the Far East to the facility built by Vallejo Marine Terminal.

Nobody from the group was available for comment.