By Karen Robes Meeks, May 23, 2014
Jesse Marquez speaks at a March hearing held by the L.A. Board of Harbor
Commissioners against the Southern California International Gateway
project, a $500 million rail yard opponents say would bring added health
risks to nearby West Long Beach and Wilmington neighborhoods. A
lawsuit by several agencies, including the city of Long Beach, against
the project has drawn the attention of the state Attorney General’s
The state Attorney General’s Office wants to intercede in a battle
between the cities of Long Beach and Los Angeles over a $500 million
rail yard project that Long Beach officials say would have negative
environmental consequences in their neighborhoods.
office recently filed a motion to intervene in the city of Long Beach’s
case against Los Angeles over BNSF Railway’s $500-million Southern
California International Gateway project, a 153-acre site that would
allow BNSF to handle up to 2.8 million container units from the ports of
Long Beach and Los Angeles.
A hearing on the state attorney general’s motion is scheduled for
Aug. 6 in front of a judge in the city of Martinez in Contra Costa
David Beltran, a spokesman for California Attorney General
Kamala D. Harris, said the motion was filed “to move the project
forward in a way that supports the port’s competitiveness while also
mitigating negative health impacts to the surrounding communities.”
He added that the Attorney General’s Office has had a successful record of intervening.
Beach Assistant City Attorney Michael Mais said Friday that the state
office’s desire to get involved may help Long Beach’s case. Long Beach
says the project does not comply with the California Environmental
“It’s definitely a good thing that they’ve chosen to try to
intervene,” he said, adding that it’s not routine for the state office
to get involved. “It signals that they think there are issues here.”
agencies — including the city, the Long Beach Unified School District,
the Natural Resources Defense Council and the South Coast Air Quality
Management District — filed suit against Los Angeles last year after the
Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners and City Council approved the
project, which had been in environmental review for eight years.
Supporters, including business groups and trade unions, said the
project would bring much-needed jobs and boost the region economically.
opponents said the Los Angeles site would bring added health risks to
nearby West Long Beach and Wilmington neighborhoods that border the
project. The project is close to several schools, day-care centers and
parks, including a transitional housing facility for homeless veterans,
families and children.
“When you add 5,000 trucks a day, it’s not
going to make it cleaner,” said John Cross, a West Long Beach resident
who has advocated for moving the project away from his neighborhood.
“You cannot build a rail yard next to schools.”
The Port of Los Angeles and BNSF on Friday said the project
actually would help improve the area’s air quality. BNSF spokeswoman
Lena Kent said the company has committed more than $100 million for
green technologies, including the use of zero-emission electric cranes
and ultralow emitting hostler vehicles onsite. The company also has
redesigned the entrance to the facility away from neighborhoods and
agreed to limit truck travel to designated industrial routes, tracked
“BNSF is currently reviewing the filing,” she said.
“However, the company stands ready to invest $500 million in private
funds to develop a facility that will greatly improve air quality for
those nearby and throughout the region, create thousands of construction
and permanent jobs, reduce traffic in local neighborhoods and on the
710 Freeway, and support the national and global competitiveness of both
ports,” she said.
Port of Los Angeles spokesman Phillip Sanfield said the project
will be a state-of-the-art “green” intermodal rail yard facility.
“Because of the heavy industrial uses that have been on the SCIG site
for years, the SCIG project actually removes diesel particulate matter
and improves the health risk of neighboring communities and schools
compared to the site’s current use,” he said. “The Port of Los Angeles
is confident that the court will find that the project’s environmental
analysis is sound and the project fully complies with the law.”