A judge Wednesday struck down the city’s approval of a $500 million BNSF rail yard near the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex, saying officials failed to properly analyze the environmental effects the project would have on nearby residents and businesses.
The rail yard, which was approved by the Los Angeles City Council in 2013, was touted as a project needed to improve the flow of cargo in and out of the port to keep the complex competitive with other seaports around the country.
But environmental advocates, the city of Long Beach, community groups and other public agencies objected to the 153-acre Southern California Intermodal Gateway, complaining the approval of the project violated the state Environmental Quality Act, and saying the project would be too close to West Long Beach neighborhoods and several schools.
Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Barry P. Goode, who was assigned the case when it was transferred out of Los Angeles, issued a 200-page ruling Wednesday, agreeing that the city must conduct a more thorough environmental analysis of the project.
“This is a huge win for Long Beach, and in particular our westside residents who would have been dramatically impacted by this proposed project,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said. “The health of our children and the protection of our environment have been at the forefront of our concerns.”
Ironically, Los Angeles officials argued when approving the project that it would actually improve the environment by dramatically reducing truck traffic, since cargo could be more quickly transferred to the rail yard about four miles from the port. Cargo currently needs to be driven more than 20 miles from the port to a BNSF yard in Commerce.
Port of Los Angeles officials voiced disappointment over the ruling, saying it “delays or deprives the region of many environmental benefits and both ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach of important rail infrastructure.”
“We will study the decision and discuss next steps with BNSF and the Board of Harbor Commissioners,” according to a statement from port officials.
They added the project would replace “current heavy industrial uses” at the site and provide “good-paying jobs, improve rail efficiency and reduce truck traffic, freeway congestion and air pollution by eliminating over a million truck trips annually along a 24-mile stretch of the Long Beach (710) Freeway to BNSF’s Hobart Yard near downtown Los Angeles.”
Gary Toebben, president/CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, also said the rail yard would have been a boost to the overall environment and economy.
“This new cargo container facility near the ports would have taken thousands of trucks off the 710 Freeway each day,” he said. “It would also have made the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles more competitive with other ports around the world.”
Harbor-area Los Angeles Councilman Joe Buscaino in 2013 called the rail yard “a good and sound environmental project” that would create “actual green jobs” and take about 1.5 million trucks off the road.
Opponents argued, however, that the yard would divert diesel trucks closer to schools and homes in the Long Beach area. By 2035, the project would generate 2 million truck trips per year between the site and the port, opponents said.
“We understand that the Port of Los Angeles provides an important economic engine to the region, but that doesn’t mean that it can bypass laws designed to protect the environment and public health,” Long Beach Assistant City Attorney Michael Mais said. “The Port of Los Angeles was required to do its best to limit the environmental harm of this project, and the court agreed with petitioners that the port’s efforts fell far short.”
— Wire reports
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: