by VoiceWaves Beat Reporter Patrick Moreno
Long Beach community members and groups are continuing the fight against the controversial proposed $500 million dollar container loading yard just outside city limits.
The proposed Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway project, called the Southern California International Gateway (SCIG), would be constructed on land owned by the Port of Los Angeles, in the harbor area just west of Long Beach.
Concerned community members are rallying to have the project rejected, and moved to the port. At the heart of the issue for Long Beach residents are clean air and good jobs. The SCIG will use many fossil-fuel engines, and is directly adjacent a community already affected by diesel pollution. It stands to bring jobs to the community, as well as more pollution.
A second draft of the environmental impact report for the project was released this September, and public comment on it will close Nov. 9. From then on, the Port will be reviewing public comments for a final environmental report in early 2013 when goes up to review by the Los Angeles City Council.
Long Beach Councilmember James Johnson has decided to take matters into his own hands, holding a public hearing on Nov. 7.
“My expectation is that Long Beach residents will be able to get more information about the project and provide input for it,” Johnson said. “While there is less notice for the meeting than I would like, due to the Port of Los Angeles’s deadline for receiving comments, I want to do everything I can to allow residents in the impacted community to make any comments they have about it and to receive a response from the Port of Los Angeles regarding those comments.”
The port of Los Angeles has refused to have a public meeting in Long Beach before that deadline. The recirculated environmental impact report is available here for public review
“We are advocating for total project reconsideration and on-dock maximization, because this project is unacceptable on all levels due to its environmental impacts,” said Angelo Logan, co-founder of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ), one of the main local groups opposing the SCIG. “If they want to build the SCIG it should be at the port.”
EYCEJ will continue to submit formal comments urging rejection of the project, and talking directly to the LA Harbor Commission.
BNSF claims that despite the additional 5,500 truck trips per day the facility would generate, long-run cuts to emissions would actually be better for the health of residents. But community members argue that while the trucks will be more clean air efficient than older models, all those trucks will be concentrated in a small area near schools and neighborhoods and residents near the 710 will not see a decrease in air pollution.
If constructed, the SCIG, a 185-acre near-dock trans-loading facility parallel to the I-710 between PCH and Sepulveda Boulevard, will be less than 500 yards from several schools. It would add another 1.5 million truck trips per year to the I710 and alameda corridors.
BNSF has said they would commit to using greener trains, electric cranes, and some bio-diesel engines to offset the pollution generated.
“The modeling numbers we have for the outcomes of this project are very clear about the positive health impact this facility would have on residents, and its a shame that some people are trying to spread misinformation to the people of this community about this yard,” said BNSF Director of Public Affairs Lena Kent.
Although it is not really clear whom is spreading “misinformation,” Gizelle Fong, Executive Director of Communities for Clean Ports doubts that the SCIG will be ‘good’ for residents.
“You can’t just add 1.5 million truck trips and not expect a negative environmental impact,” said Fong, who believes the legal process of constructing the facility is moving too fast for the community to keep up.
Over 200 hundred people from different community groups in the Green LA Port Working Group demonstrated against the SCIG project outside an Oct. 18 meeting at Banning’s landing in Wilmington. Port of Long Beach Fire Department said there were too many people in the auditorium and demonstrators were prevented from entering, but no arrests were made.
Community member Luis Cabrales, who was at the meeting, had a confrontation with police and BNSF officials. He was hoping speak to Port of Los Angeles Director of Environmental Management Chris Cannon.
“I just want [Chris] Cannon to promise the people who filled out comment cards and couldn’t get in, that they’ll have another meeting where their comments can be heard,” Cabrales said.
After public comment closes next week, the Port of Los Angeles will review all of the public comments made, and officials hope to have the final draft of the EIR submitted to the Southern California Association of Governments sometime in early 2013. If the proposal passes, it will be voted on by the Los Angeles City Council before construction begins in 2014.