New environmental scan revives controversial rail yard project • Long Beach Post News

A more “robust and accurate” pollution analysis was missing from the Southern California International Gateway project when it was first approved in 2013, leading a judge to block it in 2016, demanding that an analysis be updated. day on air quality and health effects be completed before the project can move forward.

The new environmental scan project that has been circulating since May 19 shows that diesel particulates and other pollutants would exceed state and federal standards in almost any version of the project if it were completed.

The analysis examined the effects of the project itself and in combination with the Union Pacific Intermodal Container Transfer Facility project in the north. However, opponents of the project say the documents are still imperfect and do not show the true impact of the proposed marshalling yard.

Julia Jonas-Day, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council, told a recent public meeting that her organization opposed the project because of its disproportionate impacts on low-income communities of color, adding that the new analysis is inaccurate because it is based on 11 years old data.

“It is illogical and leads to misleading conclusions,” she said. “Many changes have occurred since 2010 and are relevant to the analysis, from changes in entities operating at the project site to regulatory changes affecting air quality. “

Diesel exhaust and particulates around the port complex have been linked to a range of health problems, including cancer and asthma. Long Beach has one of the highest asthma rates in the country.

Several groups, including the City of Long Beach, the Long Beach Unified School District and the South Coast Air Quality Management District, have filed a lawsuit to block BNSF’s proposed project to build on a site in Wilmington that borders the schools, parks and residences of West Long Beach. .

It is proposed that the SCIG rail project be built west of Hudson Park, Century Villages in Cabrillo and Cabrillo High School.

Laura Cortez, organizer of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, said the revised documents show what groups like hers have been fighting against for more than a decade; a project that will have a negative impact on communities of color already burdened by a combination of pollution from ports and refineries.

City data shows that residents living near the proposed project site have a life expectancy of at least seven years less than residents living in East Long Beach and other less affected areas of the city.

“The main concern is that this will continue to create negative health effects,” Cortez said. “He makes it clear that this will increase pollution and that it should not happen.”

Cortez said a project of this magnitude should also have a longer public comment period than the current window which expires in late July. The only public meeting was held remotely last week.

A spokesperson for the LA port said there are no plans to hold another public meeting, in person or remotely, until the comment period ends.

Much of the project remained unchanged, but a new pollutant analysis was added after a judge in the Contra Costa County Superior Court ruled in 2016 that the project’s EIR was inadequate.

Completion of the SCIG marshalling yard would create a facility near the 24 hour wharf that could reduce truck traffic by moving freight traffic off trucks and onto trains to make the trip to the BNSF Intermodal Terminal near the intersection of highways 710 and 5 at Los Angèle.

Currently, trucks make the 20-mile trip, but port officials say the project would reduce truck routes to just 4 miles, reducing pollution from trucks.

The court-ordered new analysis looked at particulates and nitrogen dioxide, which enter the air primarily by burning fuel and have been linked to asthma, diabetes, cancer, being underweight to birth and other health problems.

A draft environmental review chart showing pollution levels and when they would exceed state and federal standards.

Chris Cannon, director of environmental management for the port, said the project would focus these effects on an area smaller than current operations in and around the site, a position that has been contested by opponents in the past because that they thought future pollution rates without the project were overestimated.

However, opponents say new court-ordered revisions are still insufficient as pollution projections are based on old data, such as the Cal Cartage truck installation which is no longer in service but is part of pollution calculations. basic. They said it could make the pollution created by the project appear to be less than it actually is.

The project has come under heavy criticism from community members, environmental lawyers, doctors and an official from the South Coast Air Quality Management District. , who claimed the document’s data had just been transmitted to AQMD this week.

Ian MacMillan, deputy district manager, said that at full capacity, residents of West Long Beach and other residents around the project could face even greater air pollution and disproportionate health risks. even more important than they already are.

MacMillan asked project developers this month to commit to using cleaner rail equipment and trucks in the short term and to extend the public comment period.

A district spokesperson declined to comment further on the environmental report, saying the district is still reviewing the information.

Brian Ulaszewski, executive director of City Fabrick, a Long Beach nonprofit group that advocates for sustainable policy design and development, said it was hard to believe the proposed project wasn’t No more incorporating zero-emission technology given the progress made since the project was first approved in 2013.

“While rail at the platform is an essential part of the logistics network, rail close to the platform also has a place in the system,” said Ulaszewski. “It should just be closer to the docks than to schools and residential areas. “

New rail projects at the LA and Long Beach ports have advanced in recent years as the resort continues to break monthly freight records. Officials at the Port of Long Beach have already begun to publicly launch the idea that 24-hour operations are the future, and that future will include more rail.

However, community advocates say that future should not come at the expense of areas already hardest hit by pollution from the port, refineries and highways.

It is unclear whether the city will intervene on behalf of residents as it did in the previous SCIG environmental assessment. Mike Mais, an assistant city attorney who has led the city’s fight against the project for the past decade, said the city is still reviewing the new environmental report.

“At the moment, we have not completed the review of this very technical document, particularly with regard to the air quality component,” Mais said in an email. “We will continue to monitor the project closely and react accordingly as the project progresses. “

Cortez said that with any luck the project will not move forward.

East Yard organizers have actively opposed the SCIG project and others along the 710 freeway corridor, including the 710 widening project which was halted by LA metro officials earlier this year.

Cortez said she hopes it doesn’t require another trial and years of fighting the project for it to stop, but communities are ready to fight.

“For us, this project is not happening. Period, ”Cortez said. “Whatever we have to do to stop it, we will. “

Comments on the SCIG project can be submitted until July 30.