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  August 24th, 2016 | Written by

Intermodal Project Has Long Beach and Los Angeles on Opposite Sides

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  • LA and Long Beach are on opposite sides of environmental lawsuit.
  • Intermodal project has LA and LB at loggerheads.
  • California judge ruled environmental review of intermodal project wasn't up to snuff.

A proposed intermodal project has pitted the ports of southern California’s San Pedro Bay against each other.

At issue is the $500 million Southern California International Gateway (SCIG) railyard proposed to be built by BNSF Railway Co.

Last March, a California state judge determined that an environmental review of the SCIG didn’t cut the mustard, and ordered Los Angeles city and port approvals of the project set aside.

BNSF and the city of Los Angeles have recently announced they are appealing the court’s ruling. Meanwhile, the city of Long Beach continues to oppose the project.

The port and the city of Los Angeles voted to certify the Environmental Impact Report for the SGIG in 2013. Public agencies and nonprofit organizations, concerned about its environmental impacts, filed seven lawsuits which were consolidated into one case that focused on the increased pollution that would result from the project. The original petitioners included the City of Long Beach; the South Coast Air Quality Management District; a number of community and environmental groups; the Long Beach Unified School District; and several transportation companies with business at the port.

The appeal will contend that the ruling is incorrect, as the lower court “disregarded a comprehensive eight-year environmental review in making its ruling,” BNSF said , in a statement. The railway also asserts that the judge’s ruling was an unprecedented expansion of the scope of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

BNSF probably won’t proceed with the project unless the lower court’s ruling is overturned, the statement went on to say.

The Class I railroad has spent more than 10 years working to advance the project and had planned to invest over $500 million in its private funds to develop the facility.

BNSF and the port of Los Angeles have maintained that the intermodal facility will help to reduce air pollution in the region by taking trucks off the roadways.

Opponents of the project take the opposite view. “The SCIG…would significantly increase air pollution in an area where residents already face too many health hazards,” said Charles Parkin, the Long Beach City Attorney. “The port and BNSF must re-examine opportunities to avoid the project’s effects on public health and quality of life in West Long Beach and neighboring communities.”

The court record in the case, according to Parkin, demonstrated that the new railyard would have added significant air pollution to the region. The project would have directed numerous diesel trucks and diesel trains close to schools, daycare centers, playing field, and residences on a daily basis. By 2035, he asserted, the project would have generated two million truck trips per year to and from the site, and the loading and unloading of more than 1.5 million shipping containers annually.