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Pacific Steel Agrees to Release Some Odor Plan “Trade Secrets”

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday April 01, 2010 - 07:23:00 PM

Pacific Steel Casting has agreed to release certain parts of its Odor Management Plan, which it had previously declined to do, after arriving at a settlement agreement in February with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. 

A number of Public Records Act requests were filed by the City of Berkeley and community members for the Odor Management Plan which Pacific Steel submitted to the Air District in 2008 after being cited for multiple air quality violations. 

Calling the entire plan a trade secret, Pacific Steel refused to release any part of it to the public. 

When a representative from the City of Berkeley submitted a request to the Air District for the plan, the agency notified the steel foundry, which sued the Air District to keep it from being released. 

The Berkeley City Council asked City Attorney Zach Cowan to intervene in the case in early 2009.  

Settlement negotiations began, and in November, the council authorized a settlement under which most of the odor plan would be released, but certain parts would be redacted either as trade secrets or because of security concerns.  

According to a March 23 report from Cowan to the City Council, further negotiations and a judicially-supervised settlement conference led to the parties reaching an agreement.  

The case was settled in February by agreement to a Consent Judgment.  

The result and the redactions from the OMP were also approved by the environmental group Healthy Air Coalition, who sued the Air District in April 2009, alleging that the agency violated the California Public Records Act by denying access to Pacific Steel Casting’s Odor Control Plan.  

The city argued in its complaint to the court that the odor control plan in its entirety is not a trade secret and must be disclosed. 

The Consent Judgment found it to be in the best interest of the public and the settling parties to release a copy of the odor control plan with “appropriate redactions of trade secrets and plan security and safety concerns.” 

Accordingly, PSC will now have to submit a redacted copy of the Odor Management Plan to the Air District within 10 days of the court order, which is March 29, 2010. 

Portions of the plan that the court determined Pacific Steel will not release include odor control strategies, long term odor control strategies, further efforts to reduce alleged emissions, map layouts, odor abatement equipment maintenance programs and complaint response procedures. 

Copies of the Consent Judgment and the redacted Odor Management Plan were included as information items in the city council's March 23 packet.