Public Comment

Point Molate: A Rebuttal

By Don Gosney
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:38:00 AM

We are truly blessed to have in our community a reporter of the magnitude of Richard Brenneman who brings to the table his finely honed investigative and writing skills along with his many years of experience as a reporter. 

Considering the bona fides of Mr. Brenneman, I’m surprised and disappointed in his recent articles about the issuance of the Navy’s historic Finding of Suitability for Early Transfer (FOSET) that sets in motion the final stage in the environmental restoration of the former Naval Fuel Depot Point Molate on the western shores of Richmond. 

Mr. Brenneman attended a recent meeting of the Point Molate Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) where the FOSET was introduced to the community. This document was the culmination of the hard work of a great many members of our community over the past 14 years to ensure that Point Molate is properly cleaned before being returned to our community. Mr. Brenneman, though, chose pretty much to ignore this monumental work and focus on one part of the possible development of the site. 

The 21 community members of the RAB have worked for nearly 14 years to stand firm against a Navy that wanted to just walk away from Point Molate claiming that “it looked pretty clean” to them. 

Collectively, the RAB has served more than 325 years advising the Navy on how they can best serve our community. They’ve poured over more than 40,000 pages of technical documents and written hundreds of pages of commentary for the official record. As their only elected community co-chair, I’ve even testified before a Congressional Round Table on base closures giving testimony on how the system works and does not work for communities. 

The Point Molate RAB includes experts in the petrochemical industry, several experts with the EPA, experts on environmental justice, experts on native plants and wildlife, scientists with extensive backgrounds in environmental cleanup and an army of community activists. The Point Molate RAB has been praised across the country as being the model of how effective a RAB can be and we’ve even been recognized publicly by the Undersecretary of the Navy. 

With the strong bona fides of the Point Molate RAB, Mr. Brenneman chose not to interview anyone that actually was involved in the process but elected to go to a mayor that has steadfastly refused every offer to educate her about what we’ve been doing. He chose to go to a member of the Zeneca CAG so she could pass judgment against what we’ve done—in spite of the fact that she’s never been to a single one of our nearly 100 public meetings where everyone has a seat and a voice at the table. He chose to go to environmental activists from other communities who want to come into Richmond and tell us what we can or cannot do—activists who have gotten into bed with Chevron because, as one of them wrote, “the ends justify the means.” 

The terms of this FOSET open the door for Richmond to finally take full ownership of Richmond’s “Jewel by the Bay” and allow the development of the site. 

Mr. Brenneman wrote of some of the objections to this development even though the draft EIR has not yet been issued offering up any of the details of the proposed development, any possible problems associated with it or the developer’s proposed solutions. 

The proposed development of Point Molate offers up an economic engine that could generate nearly 17,000 jobs for our community and bring hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue into our financially depressed region. I would hope that reporters like Mr. Brenneman might wait until after the draft EIR is issued before trashing the project too much. 

What Mr. Brenneman also failed to write about were the realistic alternatives to the proposed development. When I lay my head down at night I dream of having Bill Gates’ money, Brad Pitt’s looks and even Brad Pitt’s wife. When I awake in the morning, though, I’m still in the real world and I have to live with those realities. Whether it’s the mayor, the dog walkers or even the activists from other cities, before they decide what we can’t do with Point Molate, I suggest they perform a reality check of their own to learn what will probably happen if they kill any development of Point Molate. 

I would also hope that Mr. Brenneman might research the history of our cleanup efforts and make an effort to help the public understand the significance of this FOSET and how it affects our community. Furthermore, I would hope that Mr. Brenneman might speak with people who are intimately familiar with what’s actually been happening at Point Molate instead of relying on “the usual suspects” who like to talk big and sound good to people who don’t know enough to question what made them such experts on the subject. 


Don Gosney is community co-chair of the Point Molate Restoration Advisory Board.