Darling rendering plant relocation sparks lawsuit against Fresno by possible neighbors

Darling Ingredients’ Fresno rendering plant is seen from Hyde Park, a neighborhood park in southwest Fresno.
Darling Ingredients’ Fresno rendering plant is seen from Hyde Park, a neighborhood park in southwest Fresno. FRESNO BEE FILE PHOTO

After Fresno neighbors for years battled in court against a stinky meat processing plant — and the city council finally approved a relocation plan — the city now faces a lawsuit from the plant's potential new neighbors.

James and Lisa Quist, the owners of Quist Dairy, farm walnuts and almonds on Jensen Avenue, near city-owned land where the council chose to relocate the Darling Ingredients plant from its current location on 795 W. Belgravia Ave. The Quists filed a lawsuit last fall seeking a judge's mandate to suspend and prevent the relocation of the plant, require the city to conduct an environmental impact report, and for the city to pay their attorney fees.

The city council had a conference with legal council on the lawsuit during closed session Thursday. City officials declined to comment, citing a policy to not comment on pending litigation.

The Fresno City Council in October 2017 approved a plan for Darling to relocate and expand its plant, which currently processes millions of pounds per week of animal carcasses from slaughterhouses into animal food, fertilizer and fuel. The proposed site is at Jensen and Cornelia near the city's wastewater treatment plant.

The proposed site provides 20 acres, as well as an option for Darling to purchase an additional 20 acres. The development agreement with the city includes provisions for expanding the plant's processing capacity to 10 million pounds per week, running 24 hours a day, six or seven days per week.

An agreement between Darling Ingredients and the city of Fresno helps clear the way for relocating the company's West Fresno rendering plant to a site several miles outside the city. TIM SHEEHAN THE FRESNO BEE

The Darling plant was the target of a lawsuit filed in 2012 by a group of residents, Concerned Citizens of West Fresno. That lawsuit will be dismissed after a new plant is operating and the old plant is shut down and decommissioned.

The Quists in the new lawsuit say their customers and employees will be exposed to risks to their health, safety and welfare.

They also say in the lawsuit that Darling could increase its "notoriously obnoxious activity of animal carcass rendering" by nearly 236 percent, causing adverse affects to the air quality in the area.

The Quists say the city did not comply with California Environmental Quality Act guidelines because it conducted an impact study and adopted a mitigated negative declaration when it should have conducted an environmental impact review.

"…Petitioner and the public will be irreparably harmed by the environmental damage which will result from violations of CEQA and state planning and zoning laws by the city," the lawsuit said.