LA Council Approves Massive Rail Yard Project

LA Council Approves Massive Rail Yard Project : The Long Beach City Council Tuesday voted unanimously to pursue litigation against the city of Los Angeles in regards to the EIR approval of SCIG.

The city of Long Beach and environmental activists have exhausted their legislative channels to delay or modify a major rail yard project.

The Los Angeles City Council, Wednesday, moved the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Southern California International Gateway (SCIG) project forward by giving final approval of its Environmental Impact Report and approving a 50-year lease for the project. Only two council members voted against the project.

The 153-acre rail yard structure will be built in Los Angeles, but right along the border of Long Beach. It will service both the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles.

The city, along with entities including the Air Quality Management District and National Resources Defense Council, had been appealing the Los Angeles Harbor Commission’s previous project approval. Those groups have been arguing that more environmental mitigations need to be included in SCIG.

“I don’t think Los Angeles is listening to Long Beach, and it couldn’t be any clearer from today’s council meeting,” Seventh District Councilman James Johnson said on Wednesday.

Both Johnson and Mayor Bob Foster spoke on behalf of the city. Long Beach’s western border likely will be the most impacted community area, officials said.

Residents and environmentalists have lobbied to have SCIG moved entirely away from the area — even beyond just putting mitigations up. They have argued that asthma rates are already higher in the area due to other pollution, and many have called the area a “diesel death zone.” There are five schools there and at least one childcare facility, as well as Century Villages at Cabrillo.

“We’ve asked for a middle ground — at least some mitigations — and they weren’t interested in that,” Johnson said.

City officials have sought some kind of mitigation fund to help the adjacent Long Beach neighborhoods, and perhaps even a buffer park between the new development and the nearby community.

“When it has been a Los Angeles project affecting Los Angeles residents, they showed a willingness to protect those residents,” Johnson said.

NRDC leaders already have vowed to challenge the approval in court, possibly citing violations of the Environmental Quality Act.

Johnson said it is possible for the city of Long Beach to file a lawsuit, as well, but that the issue has not been discussed at all up to this point.

BNSF first proposed SCIG in 2005. It is now a $500 million project that rail officials said they hope to begin construction on in 2013 and finish by 2015 so that operation can begin in 2016. Proponents — including multiple area chambers of commerce — of the rail project have argued that it is the most environmentally friendly project of its kind.

“AQMD hasn’t ever come out against a project — normally they comment but don’t take a position,” Johnson said. “They felt on this that it is so egregious that they had to come out fully against it.”

Now, the only tool for opponents against the project will be through the judicial branch, officials said.

Massive Rail Yard Project

Source : gazettes

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