The Agrium fertilizer plant on Channel Drive in West Sacramento, as seen from a Southport levee
News-Ledger Editorial Opinion from Dec. 29, 2010
The twin-domed Agrium facility is by far West
Sacramento’s largest handler of hazardous materials. It holds primarily
anhydrous ammonia, which forms a dangerous gas when released. The plant is
situated on Channel Drive, near the barge canal that divides the northern and
southern halves of the city.
It’s always worth stressing that Agrium is a
well-run fertilizer plant that gets high marks for safety and professionalism,
both from the local fire department and others who have visited the plant.
Agrium has a good safety record (we reported several minor injuries from a
small accident this year).
A major accident involving the escape of tons
of anhydrous ammonia is improbable.
On the other hand:
If there were a major accident, many West
Sacramento residents and employees could potentially be endangered.
The plant has changed owners several times in
its four decades of history, and could be sold again at any time to owners
City officials never really had a say in
locating the plant within city limits in the 1970s, as there were no West
Sacramento city limits at that time. This area was still an unincorporated part
of Yolo County.
Ammonia is sometimes stored in rail cars
parked next to West Sacramento neighborhoods, and federal anti-terrorism laws
prevent us from knowing exactly where and to what extent those cargoes are
The plant already has a valid permit to
operate. But next month, the Port of West Sacramento (which is controlled by
West Sacramento and its city council) will vote on renewing a lease, for 20
years, of waterfront property used by Agrium as a shipping wharf.
The News-Ledger has often opined that current
city officials should take responsibility, with an “up or down vote,” for any
decision that keeps the Agrium plant in operation within West Sacramento for
decades into the future. The upcoming discussion about the 20-year land lease
is as good a time as any for that policy decision.