Friday, March 22, 2013

Something Stinks in EBMUD...Stinks Like a Back-Room Deal.

Is anybody else fed up with toxic freeway pollution and garbage stink that hits you coming off the Bay Bridge from San Francisco?

Commuters driving on 880, 80, 580 and 24 catch a whiff of the stench that residents of Emeryville and West Oakland gag on every day where those freeways converge near the expanding waste complex that EBMUD operates in the Port of Oakland.

Now the Oakland City Council has given Recology, the San Francisco waste company, an exclusive contract to bring up to 600 tons a day of waste from San Francisco and the Bay Area to a new food waste preprocessing facility Recology will operate on EBMUD land. There is a lot about this deal that has not been explained or discussed in public.

All year we've heard about the ambitious West Oakland Specific Plan to bring in new jobs and housing while protecting the neighborhood. Polluting metals recycling facilities are headed to the former Oakland Army Base. This area got wacked in 1989 by an earthquake that collapsed the Cypress Freeway. For the past 25 years dozens of plans promised to make this area more livable, end illegal dumping and fix up the broken window syndrome in West Oakland.

Does that mean it's okay to start piling in again with more garbage trucks, more composting, more food waste that stinks up the area without even holding proper public hearings at City Hall, avoiding the need for a specific CEQA Environmental Impact Report that would discuss all of these issues in detail?

Recology has had a monopoly on garbage collection in San Francisco for 80 years and spent $1.75 million last summer to defeat a city referendum to open waste collection to competitive bidding. Now, Recology has won a no-bid exclusive contract to build a facility in Oakland for trash from our city and anywhere else their trucks can deliver garbage from! 600 tons a day, seven days a week, is almost 220,000 tons a year. Recology and EBMUD put forward a laudable goal, to convert food waste to methane energy. But EBMUD's anaerobic digester can handle only 100 tons a day, and Recology can bring in 600 tons a day! Does anyone care what happens with all this extra traffic into EBMUD/Recology and where will the extra 500 tons a day go after that? Does anyone care?

The Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) says there is an "significant and unavoidable risk" which the Recology food waste facility will pose to existing pollution cancer risks already facing West Oakland residents. The City Council never discussed the EIR in any detail, and the city's own Public Works Agency supervisor told the council not to worry: "This is a land use restriction within the Port of Oakland so it’s not within a land use restriction with the City of Oakland. Yes it is a deal between Recology East Bay Organics and East Bay MUD."

They didn't. The Council voted 6-2 to approve Recology's facility on February 5, 2013. Only Larry Reid and Desley Brooks opposed. No one wrote about the decision. No one seems to care. Sounds like a backroom deal.

Reid's last comment before the vote was: "I’m just gonna say this, I’m going to vote no, we’ve often made mistakes in the past and this is another one that we’re making, and we’re going to live to regret it."

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