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Vernon Facility Operations Update – 10/8/22

Vernon facility shutdown and plan to service customers through Tuesday, Oct. 11

Oct. 8, 2022 — On behalf of our thousands of customers and more than 100 union-represented employees third-generation family-owned and operated Baker Commodities Inc. (“Baker”) regrets that the Los Angeles Superior Court has continued our request for emergency relief until Tuesday, October 11.  As such, the shutdown order issued by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) remains in effect pending the Court’s review and decision on Tuesday, shuttering our Vernon facility at 5:00 pm on Friday, October 7.

In response, Baker is in process on a dual path short-term plan to service our customers through Tuesday:

  • We are working with industry partners on an emergency, temporary basis to distribute our material to facilities across the Southwest.
  • We yesterday obtained an emergency permit from the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), which enables us – as a last resort – to landfill our material on a temporary basis.

What is at stake

Baker is working to avert a regional public health and environmental crisis, as foreshadowed by a representative of the CDFA in our Court filings, to be heard on Tuesday.  With a mere seven days’ notice, the AQMD’s shutdown order prevents Baker – one of only two facilities of its kind in Southern California – from properly disposing of waste from butchers and grocery stores handling raw animal products.  Additionally, despite not being subject to the regulation at issue, the AQMD’s order prevents Baker from properly disposing of grease-laden water from restaurants and other commercial food preparation facilities, and used cooking oil from commercial kitchens.

Because California law prevents all of these materials from being disposed of in landfills or sewer systems, without emergency relief from the Court on Tuesday, animal waste will be left to rot without proper processing, resulting in widespread nuisance odors and the potential for virus and disease outbreaks across the region.

About the regulation at issue

Baker played a pivotal role in writing the very regulation behind the AQMD’s order – Rule 415, which was designed to reduce odors from animal rendering facilities – and believes the company is fully compliant with its provisions.  Importantly, Baker’s rendering operation has not been the subject of an odor-related Notice of Violation from the AQMD in more than 20 years.

Why the AQMD’s order is improper

Baker believes the AQMD’s order is improper because it is reliant on a fabricated violation of Rule 415, exploited for the sole purpose of shutting Baker down.  Specifically:

  • The AQMD has repeatedly stated that public odor complaints were immaterial to its shutdown order, yet such complaints, fanned by local elected officials, are the very basis for the order.
  • One of the members of the AQMD’s Hearing Board specific to this matter, who worked as an engineer for the District for more than 30 years and previously chaired the Toxics and Risk Managers Committee of the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association, dissented with the order due to its reliance on an erroneous application of Rule 415.
  • The order includes findings that directly contradict the AQMD’s own inspector.
  • And most shockingly, the AQMD’s inspector was coached in real-time by the District prosecutor assigned to this case and four other unidentified people while testifying under oath to the AQMD’s Hearing Board.

About Baker’s Vernon facility

For the past 85 years, Baker Commodities has operated as an essential public service, removing food by-products from the waste stream and recycling them into renewable, usable products.  The company operates three distinct business units at its City of Vernon facility:  (1) rendering animal parts, which creates meat and bone meal that is used for fertilizer or animal feed and tallow that is used as the primary feedstock in renewable fuels; (2) processing used cooking oil, which creates a yellow grease that is used for feed supplement and as the primary feedstock in renewable fuels; and (3) processing of restaurant grease trap water so that the water may be lawfully discharged to the city sewer.  Baker also collects the small amount of used cooking oil that is comingled with the grease trap water and converts it into the primary feedstock in renewable fuels.  Only the rendering operation is regulated by Rule 415.

Baker is dedicated to finding sustainable ways to support the food production and restaurant industries, and prides itself on being Carbon Negative as validated by Clemson University’s Animal Co-Products Research & Education Center (ACREC).

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