Petaluma legal fees mounting in fight against Dutra plant

The Petaluma City Council decision to spend about $10,000 trying to prevent an asphalt plant from opening on its outskirts commits it to a legal battle that may cost many times that, although it won't bear the cost alone.

"If it's a very short proceeding that doesn't involve a trial, then an appeal would cost somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000," said Santa Rosa attorney Rachel Stevenson, referring to the state appeals court process Petaluma is set to embark upon.

"If it's more complex and involves a voluminous record and complex issues, depending on those and the duration of the proceedings, it can approach $200,000," said Stevenson, who started Empire College School of Law's appellate advocacy program.

The City Council voted Monday, 6-1, to pursue an appeal of Superior Court Judge Rene Chouteau's ruling that tossed out a lawsuit the city and other plant opponents had filed against Dutra and the county, which approved the application.

Chouteau, in making his decision, said he had considered written arguments and about 50,000 pages of public records, including environmental studies and public comment on the project.

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