Long Beach council upholds Mitsubishi Cement’s terminal expansion plans

Mitsubishi Cement Corp.’s plans to reactivate and expand its Port of Long Beach Terminal are closer to being achieved following the Long Beach City Council’s rejection of environmentalists’ attempt to block the project.

The council voted 6-2 Monday night to reject the attempts of the Coalition for a Safe Environment and Earthjustice to appeal the Harbor Commission’s approval of the project’s environmental impact report. The groups objected to Mitsubishi Cement’s plans, in part, on the basis of their views that the company’s plans failed to include the best possible technology to protect air quality.

“We’re concerned about adding a project to our already unsustainable air quality situation that has significant impacts to the port community,” Earthjustice attorney Tamara Zakim said Monday while addressing the council.

Harbor Commission members have already attempted to deal with the question of which technologies may be best to reduce air pollution around the cement terminal. When the panel certified the environmental report in May, Commissioner Rich Dines received approval for a policy requiring port officials to review whether Mitsubishi is using state of the art emissions tech every five years during lease negotiations.

“I’m sure that in the future, there will be things that we haven’t even thought about that will be used,” Mitsubishi Cement Corp. vice president Bud Biggs said Tuesday.

Although a majority of council members agreed with the Harbor Commission’s judgement, the two members whose districts are nearest to the port complex, Lena Gonzalez and Roberto Uranga, took the environmentalists’ side and voted to uphold the appeal.

Biggs said he anticipates Mitsubishi Cement Corp. will be able to quickly receive an additional needed approval from the Southern California Air Quality Management District, although the company must still complete engineering work and other tasks before construction can begin.
Construction workers may begin building new storage silos at the cement terminal in about one year, Biggs said.

The terminal, which was built on the site of a former banana warehousing operation, has been out of service since 2010, according to port officials. Mitsubishi Cement halted deliveries of cement and similar construction materials to the terminal as a result of reduced demand after the economy sunk in the recent recession.

As of the present, however, Biggs said the company’s plant near the San Bernardino County community of Lucerne Valley is sold out and builders’ demand for cement exceeds available supplies.

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