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Vernon Facility Operations Update – 10/13/22

Baker Vernon facility to stop route collection services for Fat and Bone customers on Oct. 14; Court sets expedited schedule for Baker to pursue injunction against AQMD’s improper shutdown order

Oct. 13, 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”) is pursuing an injunction against the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s improper shutdown order.  We are pleased the Court has set an expedited schedule for this matter, and anticipate it will be heard by the Court by month’s end.  Until that time, the shutdown order issued by the AQMD and effective as of October 7 at 5:00 pm remains in effect for our Vernon facility.

While our immediate priority has been to minimize impact on our customers – by (1) working with other companies in our industry on an emergency, temporary basis to distribute our material to facilities across the Southwest and (2) obtaining an emergency permit to landfill our material on a temporary basis, as a last resort – we regret that this contingency arrangement simply is not sustainable. 

The AQMD’s order prevents Baker from bringing our trucks onto our Vernon property, meaning our fleet cannot be serviced or cleaned.  Our drivers are encountering wait times of up to five hours outside other companies’ facilities before they can offload our material, creating safety issues associated with excessive overtime behind the wheel.  And due to an existing shortage of capacity at Southern California landfills, Baker ultimately has elected not to landfill our material, especially given the environmental impacts involved.

Beginning tomorrow, Friday, October 14, Baker will stop route collection services for Fat and Bone customers.  We deeply apologize to our customers for this interruption of service, and hope that it will be short-term, pending a successful injunction against the AQMD’s Abatement Order.

What’s at stake

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 injunctive relief, 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.

To prevent a prospective regional public health and environmental crisis, we are encouraging our supporters to reach out to AQMD officials:

Why the AQMD’s order is improper

Baker played a pivotal role in writing the very regulation at issue – 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.

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.

Separately, Baker has filed a lawsuit against the AQMD and is seeking damages for violation of our due process rights, civil rights, civil conspiracy and trade secret misappropriation, among other causes of action.

For questions regarding this update, please call (323) 318 – 8265.

This matter is specific only to Baker’s Vernon, CA, facility, and there is no impact to Baker’s other markets.

Past updates on the Vernon facility