Wonderful Pistachios, the nation's largest farmer and largest pistachio processor, has sued Tulare County over the expansion of a rival's operation west of Terra Bella.

Wonderful filed the suit in Tulare County Superior Court last month. A hearing on the matter will be held during closed session at the The Tulare County Board of Supervisors meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

The hearing will be on Wonderful's appeal of the Tulare County Resource Management's Agency's issuance of building permits for ARO Pistachios Inc.'s expansion. The permits are for the addition of eight storage silos to the processing facilities existing 12 silos.

In its suit, Wonderful claims the building permits issued violate the California Environmental Quality Act.

In its suit, Wonderful states: “The County has violated CEQA by issuing approvals or continuing to process applications for additional approvals for construction work on a major development with potentially severe environment impacts prior to completing any of the required analysis of those impacts.

“Continued construction at the project site will result in irrevocable adverse environmental impacts and render the county’s compliance with CEQA a mere post-hoc rationalization for approving the project – i.e., a meaningless paperwork exercise.” 

Wonderful also stated in the suit the expansion would result in significant and adverse “impacts to the environment that have not been analyzed, disclosed or mitigated in any way.”

The suit argues the expansion would create a decline in air quality and an increased usage in groundwater which is already basically taxed to the limit.

Tulare County officials deny the claim and say all proper procedures were followed in issuing the building permits.

Wonderful is owned by billionaire Stewart Resnick. Terra Bella grower ARO Pistachios is a subsidiary of Fresno's Touchstone Pisachios, owned by the Assemi family. Resnick and the Assemi family have had an ongoing fued.

If ARO's expansion is allowed to go forward, the expanded facility would be able to process 50 million pounds of pistachios.

ARO began as a small operation, but Wonderful argued in its suit: “More recently, however, through a series of piecemealed, illegally issued building permits and other approvals, ARO Pistachios began to expand its small local facility into a major regional processing plant, removing swaths of prime farmland from agricultural production in the process and thereby reducing the amount of on-site growing capacity this facility is required to have under its existing special use permit.”

The suit is scheduled to be heard in Tulare County Superior Court on September 1.

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