Below is an excellent post from the Pittsburg Defence Council, a community group fighting the proposed WesPac oil terminal in Pittsburg CA.
Speaking as a non-attorney layperson, I think the Attorney General’s letter is well worth reading for background on how to evaluate an EIR.
Last week, Kamala Harris, California’s top lawyer, sent a letter to the Pittsburg Planning Department shredding the City’s case for WesPac.
This powerful document supports what we have already been saying: we need to know what types of crude oil WesPac could be bringing into Pittsburg. This now marks the third letter to the City of Pittsburg that points out that the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) just leaves out this crucial information.
The 11-page letter is very well-written. A lawyer might call it “tightly argued”. The average person might just say that it shreds the EIR. It says that the EIR:
- lowballs the amount of air pollution WesPac would create (for example, by pretending that the trains that would come to Pittsburg would all be the newest, cleanest, most efficient engines),
- doesn’t take into account that Pittsburg residents already suffer terrible air pollutionand very high rates of asthma,
- doesn’t look at how it will affect the air pollution in refinery towns like Martinez and Richmond (because one goal of the WesPac project is to deliver heavier, dirtier crudes to nearby refineries), and
- doesn’t consider how dangerous the new types of crude oil are that WesPac would bring into Pittsburg.
The letter points out that WesPac intends to balance its pollution of already super-polluted Pittsburg by making the air better somewhere else – but that doesn’t help Pittsburg residents! They need to look at improving the air in Pittsburg.
The Attorney General also calls out the EIR for being very misleading in the way it tries to justify the project, and criticizes it for not addressing its impacts on climate change accurately.
So, yeah, the Attorney General’s office hit it out of the park on this one.
The best part
The best part, of course, is not the specifics of what the letter says as much as who is saying it. The Planning Department might not face big consequences from disregarding a letter from California’s long-term planning agency. But it would not be wise to ignore a letter from the state Attorney General. Kamala Harris is saying that she is serious about protecting Pittsburgans from the air pollution and the risks of leaks, explosions, and fire that WesPac would bring. She’s also willing to stand firm on California’s climate change policy: no more business as usual – we will reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases.
The unspoken message, of course, is that if need be, she can bring a lawsuit, with the resources of the state of California at her disposal. That’s what makes this letter so powerful, and Pittsburgans should take heart.