Sulfuryl fluoride - CAS No. 2699-79-8
Dow Chemical Plant Expansion in Pittsburg, California
By Will Rostov and Catherine Engberg. 2005.

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Everyday heroes protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the natural areas we prize.
Thirty-five years of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Published 2005.
The intro pages to this book:

The following article is at
Chapter 6, Toxics, page 105
Dow Chemical Plant Expansion
By Will Rostov and Catherine Engberg

In December 2001, the City of Pittsburg approved the construction of a new Dow Chemical pesticide plant without requiring an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Dow proposed to build the plant at its Pittsburg, California chemical complex, which according to Dow’s website is “the largest integrated chemical manufacturing complex of its kind on the west coast.” The proposed plant would replace an existing plant that was to be shut down upon project completion. The new plant would triple Dow’s production of the toxic pesticide sulfuryl fluoride (SF) to 18 million pounds per year.

The planning commission approved the new plant and found the approval exempt from CEQA, citing the “replacement or reconstruction” exemption. Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) appealed the exemption to the City Council. Four months later, the City issued a Notice of Intent to Adopt a Mitigated Negative Declaration and noticed a public hearing before the City Council.

At the hearing and in a lengthy comment letter, CBE argued that the construction of a new pesticide plant required the preparation of an EIR. CBE’s lead scientist raised serious concerns about the dramatic increase in use of hydrofluoric acid (HF) and chlorine, two of the constituents of SF. Both chemicals can be deadly on human contact, and HF in particular is one of the most dangerous chemicals known to science. A staff scientist from the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) raised issues regarding the hazards of SF. A third expert analyzed air quality impacts.

Despite clear evidence of potential hazards to workers and community members from increased SF production, and despite corresponding air pollution, noise, traffic, and other cumulative impacts, the City Council approved the project. Further, they disregarded city code provisions requiring a conditional use permit for the plant expansion.

CBE and PANNA sued the City for both failing to prepare an EIR under CEQA and for failing to require a conditional use permit under its Municipal Code. The City and Dow quickly came to the negotiating table. Following extensive settlement negotiations, mediated by State Senator Tom Torlakson of Contra Costa County, the parties reached a creative settlement agreement and entered into a consent judgment in July 2003.

The settlement required Dow to hire an independent consultant, agreed to by all parties, to analyze in detail the air quality and hazard impacts of the project, and to develop mandatory mitigation measures for these impacts. The consultant proposed over thirty new measures, designed to reduce emissions and minimize accidental releases during plant operation, which Dow has agreed to incorporate into its final project design. In addition, Dow consented to a 25 percent reduction of certain air emissions from 2001 levels by the end of 2006.

The settlement also required increased public disclosure of Dow’s internal SF monitoring studies, performed to determine the health and environmental effects of the pesticide. Dow will provide a number of these studies to the Department of Pesticide Regulation and to the general public for use in setting appropriate health standards.

The City of Pittsburg agreed to retain outside CEQA counsel to train City planning staff on the CEQA process and to establish a list of qualified CEQA consultants.

Finally, the agreement required Dow to fund two additional environmental projects in the amount of $500,000 each, for a total of $1,000,000. To be administered by the nonprofit San Francisco and East Bay Community Foundations, these projects will benefit public health and the environment in the Pittsburg/Antioch area, and farm worker safety in California.
Will Rostov is Staff Attorney with Communities for a Better Environment.

Catherine Engberg, an associate attorney at Shute Mihaly & Weinberger, represented PANNA in this case.

The agreement required Dow to fund two additional projects in the amount of $500,000 each. These projects will benefit public health and the environment in the region, and farm worker safety in California.

Fluoride Action Network | Pesticide Project | 315-379-9200 |