I don't think so...it just doesn't make any sense. I'm not saying that there are no negative impacts but when you base your process on, or start out with, chromium salts, which are highly toxic, it's going to be a far cry from starting out with oak bark. And that's just the start, what is the end like--the effluent? Still chromium sulfate in the case of chrome tanning and only vegetable extracts in veg tans--natural, compostable, non-toxic, etc..
In the case of Baker, and all the other small tanneries that the slideshow alluded to (as well as tanneries in the US in the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries most, if not all of which were bark tannages) there were no regulations, and no long term deleterious effects, on people or the environment either.
Salt--sodium chloride--is not part of the tanning process, it is a temporary preservation technique that is effected often before the hides even reach the tannery.
As for chrome tanned leathers being softer than veg. tanned leathers...that's not been my experience. Some...maybe even most are...but that is just as dependent on after tanning processes as what colour the leather will be. I've seen (and used veg tanned sides that were as spongy (moreso), loose and soft as any chrome. And judging by the "hand" softer than anything but leathers like deerskin. Several outfits in Germany...Ecotan comes to mind...produce a entirely veg tanned lining calf that is as soft or softer than any chrome tanned orthopedic "pearl cow." I've used it, I love it...I can't afford the price or the wait.
Ehh....it's all a bunch of hippie hand-wringing, if you ask me.
But - and I can't find the pdf I grabbed years ago right now - here is a link that apparently references the same study.....a study paid for by an Eco group.
As well, and I'm sure you know, most 'veg' leathers sold are really chrome tanned with a veg retan.......true veg tanned will not hold up against the elements without additional processing. Which brings you right back to where you started.
Finally, It's funny that folks will worry about the processing of the material, in general, and then post in another thread about how can they eliminate any signs of a natural material wearing, cover a spot, change the color, etc., etc. Veg tanned leathers will change everyday they see light and more when they see rain.