The legal battle over the BNSF Railway Company Southern California International Gateway project which has dragged on since the Los Angeles City Council’s vote in 2013 to approve the project will now be appealed to the California Supreme Court.
A brief announcement by Long Beach City Attorney Charles Parkin during Tuesday night’s city council meeting confirmed that the city will continue its fight against the SCIG project by appealing to the highest court in the state. Parkin said that the city and its partners in the suit—the South Coast Air Quality Management District, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice and the Long Beach Unified School District are also plaintiffs—have about two weeks to file the appeal, but they intend to do that before the window closes.
Parkin said that while there is no guarantee that the court will agree to hear the appeal, noting that it accepts about 10 percent of petitions filed with it, if the court does take the case the city hopes that it will receive a resolution to this matter by the end of 2018 or early 2019.
“We believe that the trial court was correct,” Parkin told The Post. “We’re asking the supreme court to take another look at these rulings and decide if they agree with the trial court or if they agree with the appeals court.”
In July 2016 the Contra Costa Superior Court Judge ruled that a “more robust and accurate analysis” of the possible environmental impacts of the project must be completed before it could move forward. The court found that because the EIR measured average traffic noise anticipated by the project and not single noise event levels it did not accurately capture what residents of West Long Beach would face after the 24-hour rail yard facility opened. The EIR’s assessment of the impact on air quality was also called into question by the court.
However, last month an appeals court ruled that while the project proposed to be built near the Port of Los Angeles by BNSF was not fully cleared of the allegations made by the City of Long Beach, it found it to be compliance with most of the state’s environmental laws. It still faces issues regarding its air quality analysis and the cumulative impacts of those pollutants.
The ruling was viewed as a victory by the industry but Long Beach will challenge that ruling in its petition to the supreme court based on its original contention about the impacts that it will have on residents in West Long Beach, maintaining that the impacts have not been properly mitigated.
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer’s office said that it had no comment at this time on the pending petition to the state’s supreme court. A representative from BNSF said the company was unaware of Long Beach’s intent to file a petition and could not comment on the pending petition.
The $500 million SCIG rail project would have created a trail facility that BNSF said would have lowered the amount of long-haul truck trips from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to its train facility in the City of Commerce. It’s been framed as not only a way to make cargo movement more efficient but as a greener alternative to its current operations.
The California Supreme Court, if it accepts the petition, could have the last word on this item with an announcement coming within the next year.
Jason Ruiz covers transportation for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or 951-310-1772.
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