Baykeeper Update

Joining Forces to Stop Dirty Coal Exports

In 2013, the Vallejo Marine Terminal (VMT) and Orcem Cement company proposed to build a bulk shipping terminal and cement plant along the shores of Mare Island Strait, in northern San Francisco Bay.

But that’s not all. In addition to handling polluting cement materials, the terminal also could be used to transport hazardous products like coal and petroleum coke. These toxic materials would pollute nearby neighborhoods, harm people’s health, and spill into the Bay.

Local residents were concerned, and they alerted Baykeeper. We joined forces to advocate for stronger water and health protections on any plans to ship toxic materials out of Vallejo.

But the company refused to fully answer our questions or be transparent about what materials it planned to ship— that secrecy reminded Baykeeper’s attorneys a little too much of a similarly deceptive terminal proposal we had recently faced. 

In Oakland, a developer hid plans to use a proposed shipping terminal for coal exports until after the city had signed the contracts allowing the project to move ahead. Baykeeper and Oakland have been fighting a long legal battle with the developer to keep coal out of Oakland ever since

We suspected that the same bait and switch could happen in Vallejo. Plus, the VMT/Orcem project raised other concerns: the construction was going to fill several acres of Bay wetlands, reduce public access to the shoreline, and disrupt the Bay Trail (a mostly continuous public path around San Francisco Bay’s shoreline).

For six years, Baykeeper, Sierra Club, and our Vallejo community partners fought vigorously for limits on the Orcem project in order to protect the environment and public health.

And now, we achieved victory: the company has pulled the plug on the project, officially withdrawing their latest appeal.

“This is a huge win for the Bay and the Vallejo community,” says Baykeeper Managing Attorney Erica Maharg. “The Bay Area already faces multiple pollution threats from heavy industry around the Bay’s shoreline. And the last thing we need right now is to ramp up dirty coal exports on the Bay.”