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"Sup. Mike Kerns, our supervisor, retired soon after his vote to approve this asphalt factory. He should have protected Petaluma's healthy environment and tourist friendly image — he should have voted no," said Joan Cooper of Friends of Shollenberger. Kerns was replaced by Supervisor David Rabbitt, who has publically opposed the plant proposal.

The city's initial lawsuit asserted that the county didn't properly consider the health, environmental and design impact of the plant, claims Judge Rene Chouteau dismissed in his December 2011 ruling in the county's favor. On the appeal, Danly focused on the county's general plan, which states the land is designated for a "river dependent" industrial use. While Dutra said the plant has plans to haul materials by barge to cut down on truck traffic, the company got an exemption from the "river dependent" requirement for the first three years of operation, which Danly said violated the land use ordinance. The appellate court disagreed.

"What we have learned is that the courts and judges are not inclined to overturn the decisions of elected officials, however bad those decisions may be," Cooper said. "The buck stops with who is representing us up in Santa Rosa."

(Contact Emily Charrier at emily.charrier@arguscourier.com)