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Controversial Barrio Logan plant stopping biodiesel operations

An embattled biodiesel factory in Barrio Logan is shutting down most of the company’s business by the end of the year.

New Leaf Biofuels announced plans on Friday to close the firm’s fuel-processing operations in Barrio Logan.

“The remaining part of this year we are going to focus on the decommissioning of the biodiesel plant and helping our loyal employees find new places to work,” said Jennifer Case, the co-founder and CEO of New Leaf Biofuels.


About 25-30 people will lose their jobs when the facility at 2285 Newton Ave. is shuttered.

Case said many of those workers have been with the company since it opened in 2006.

Company officials notified the San Diego Air Pollution Control District (APCD) of their intentions in a formal letter to the regulators delivered on Friday.

“This decision was made due to economic conditions combined with the difficulties of continuing to operate under heavy regulatory and neighborhood pressures,” Case said.

Neighborhood activists working with residents have pushed for years to eliminate the smells plaguing the portside neighborhood.


“For them to shut that part of their operation is a step in the right direction,” said Nicholas Paul, an air quality advocate at the Environmental Health Coalition.

New Leaf Biofuels plant on Newton Avenue in Barrio Logan on Dec. 6, 2022.
Erik Anderson
New Leaf Biofuels plant on Newton Avenue in Barrio Logan on Dec. 6, 2022.

The odors are generated when the used cooking oil collected from more than 3,000 restaurants in the region is processed into low-carbon diesel fuel.

The smells got so bad that local residents said they had to hide in their homes with windows and doors tightly shut and that still was not enough to shut out the stench.

Several residents of the nearby Barrio Senior Villas filed a lawsuit against the company seeking payment for damages linked to the smell.

Residents also reported their concerns to APCD officials who investigated and ordered the plant to reduce the odor.

An expensive activated carbon-filtering system got rid of the worst odors, but the move didn’t snuff out neighborhood opposition.

“This move by New Leaf wouldn’t have happened had it not been for community members advocating and organizing saying 'hey, you know I don’t want to live next to a biofuel plant,' and elevating that to regulators,” Paul said.

Paul was pleased the company is shutting down the bulk of its business in Barrio Logan, but he is concerned that the remaining cooking oil-treatment operations will still generate smells.

The plant currently processes cooking oil and fuel around the clock.

New Leaf officials said the cooking oil processing will be greatly reduced and any oil treated at the Barrio Logan plant will be sold to biodiesel manufacturers outside of the area.

The cooking oil collection business will continue to operate.

The impact on the neighborhood will be significant once the fuel-processing operation is shut down, according to Case, because much of the current truck traffic to and from the plant will not be needed.

New Leaf officials said they only located the business in Barrio Logan because the firm was lured by state and city incentives.

Those incentives were intended to encourage green industry and drive economic activity in the Barrio Logan census tract, which is an enterprise zone.

Company officials will explore a new location for their oil processing after the first of the year.

Corrected: October 24, 2023 at 3:19 PM PDT
Editor's note: A previous version of this story said New Leaf Biofuels will explore new locations for its biodiesel processing business after the first of the year, it is actually their oil processing business that will be under review after the first of the year. We regret the error.