California AG May intervene in Lawsuit over Southern California Intermodal Gateway

Big news broke last night…potentially good news for the communities around the site of this proposed BNSF Railyard.

This article is from the Long Beach Press-Telegram, by the excellent reporter, Karen Robes Meeks.

California Attorney General’s Office may intervene in Long Beach’s case against BNSF rail yard project

By Karen Robes Meeks, Long Beach Press Telegram

The state Attorney General’s office wants to intercede in a battle between the cities of Long Beach and Los Angeles over a $500 million rail yard project that Long Beach officials say would have environmental impacts to their neighborhoods.
The state office recently filed a motion to intervene in the city of Long Beach’s case against Los Angeles over BNSF Railway’s $500-million Southern California International Gateway project, a 153-acre site that would allow BNSF to handle up to 2.8 million container units from the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.
A hearing on the state Attorney General office’s motion is slated to take place on Aug. 6 in front of a judge in the city of Martinez in Contra Costa County.
David Beltran. spokesman for California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, said the motion was filed “to move the project forward in a way that supports the port’s competitiveness while also mitigating negative health impacts to the surrounding communities.”
He added that the Attorney General’s Office has had a successful record of intervening.
Assistant City Attorney Michael Mais said Friday that the state office’s desire to get involved may help Long Beach’s case. Long Beach says the project does not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act.
“It’s definitely a good thing that they’ve chosen to try to intervene,” he said, adding that it’s not routine for the state office to get involved. “It signals that they think there are issues here.”
Several agencies — including the city, the Long Beach Unified School District, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the South Coast Air Quality Management District — filed suit against Los Angeles last year after the Los Angeles Harbor Commission and City Council approved the project, which had been in environmental review for eight years.
Supporters, including business groups and trade unions, said the project would bring much-needed jobs and boost the region economically.
But opponents said the Los Angeles site would bring added health risks to nearby West Long Beach and Wilmington neighborhoods that border the project. The project is close to several schools, day-care centers and parks, including a transitional housing facility for homeless veterans, families and children.
“When you add 5,000 trucks a day, it’s not going to make it cleaner,” said John Cross, a West Long Beach resident who has advocated for moving the project away from his neighborhood. “You cannot build a rail yard next to schools.”
The Port of Los Angeles and BNSF on Friday said that the project would help improve the area’s air quality. BNSF spokeswoman Lena Kent said the company has committed more than $100 million for green technologies, including the use of zero-emission electric cranes and ultra-low emitting hostler vehicles onsite. The company has also redesigned the entrance to the facility away from neighborhoods and agreed to limit truck travel to designated industrial routes, tracked with GPS.
“BNSF is currently reviewing the filing, however, the company stands ready to invest $500 million in private funds to develop a facility that will greatly improve air quality for those nearby and throughout the region, create thousands of construction and permanent jobs, reduce traffic in local neighborhoods and on the 710 Freeway, and support the national and global competitiveness of both ports,” she said.
Port of Los Angeles spokesman Phillip Sanfield said the project will be a state-of-the-art “green” inter-modal rail yard facility.
“Because of the heavy industrial uses that have been on the SCIG site for years, the SCIG project actually removes diesel particulate matter and improves the health risk of neighboring communities and schools compared to the site’s current use,” he said. “The Port of Los Angeles is confident that the court will find that the project’s environmental analysis is sound and the project fully complies with the law.”