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Asphalt Plant to Transfer Pollution Credits to Justify Location on Richond Waterfront
August 6, 2002

Owens Corning is negotiating a lease with the City of Richmond to locate an asphalt plant adjacent to part of the Rosie the Riveter World War II Homefront National Historical Park. The plant, euphemistically dubbed an “asphalt enhancement facility” by Owens Corning will modify bulk asphalt brought in by ship to be used for applications in roofing.

Granted, the plant will bring some modest revenue to the City, but there are many downsides that may make this an exceedingly poor long term partnership for the City. The plant will be sited just north of the historic Shipyard 3 Cafeteria building on the west side of Canal Boulevard. Two humongous tanks, pipe racks, smokestacks and a warehouse will dwarf the modest Cafeteria, which has endured virtually unchanged these fifty plus years in a quiet setting against a wooded slope because it has served as offices for various Port of Richmond tenants. Owens Corning plans to utilize banked air pollution permits to justify the estimated 15-20 tons per year (100 pounds per day) of pollutants the plant will spew into Richmond’s air. The plant’s emission will be blown by the prevailing south and west winds into Point Richmond, Atchison Village and Central Richmond. Occupants of some of Richmond’s signature office and technical facilities, such as the brand new Department of Justice DNA Lab, Washington Elementary School and Marina Bay will suffer the effects.  An article in today’s Contra Costa Times (http://www.bayarea.com/mld/cctimes/3807627.htm ) slammed the banking and transfer of these pollution credits.

“The findings reinforce complaints by environmentalists that increasingly popular pollution trading programs lead to higher concentrations of industrial pollution or ‘toxic hot-spots.’ They also confirm the observation that Contra Costa County has seen disproportionately more construction and expansion of power plants and refineries. Told of the Times' findings, Contra Costa representatives to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District called for reviews or changes to the way the district's air bank is run.”

The entire Contra Costa Times article follows this E-FORUM.

The Kaiser Shipyards were industrial facilities of great magnitude, and preserving the historical setting does not preclude active Port operations of an industrial nature in the vicinity of the historic buildings. However, the immediate environment of the Cafeteria building was historically, perhaps intentionally, an island of repose even in the heyday of the shipyards. An abutting asphalt plant could put quite a damper on future visitors’ experiences. Cultural tourism has proven to be quite a moneymaker itself, and the full development of Richmond’s own national park will likely bring more in the way of income, and certainly prestige, to our city than any asphalt plant.

When the City Council was asked to approve negotiations for the asphalt facility, I reluctantly supported it, believing it to be a much more benign and appropriately scaled operation than has now been revealed.  Now that I have seen the plan and been briefed on the magnitude of the emissions, I believe it is a project whose time has long passed in Richmond.

I find it ironic that in the same week we are entertaining the director of the National Park Service with a tour of Richmond’s historic waterfront, discussing our partnership commitment to the Rosie the Riveter World War II Homefront National Historical Park, we are negotiating a long-term lease for a giant polluting asphalt plant adjacent to one of the park’s historic buildings.