Fastlane Transportation, Inc. et al. v. City of Los Angeles and BNSF Railway Co.

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Credit: Green Fire Productions/Flickr

In 2013 the City of Los Angeles approved the BNSF Railway Company’s proposal to build a huge new rail yard across the road from West Long Beach, a low-income community of color. Despite the city’s own analysis that the project, Southern California International Gateway (SCIG), would have significant negative impacts on nearby residents and the environment—including decreased air quality, additional greenhouse gas emissions, and increased traffic and noise—officials decided to move ahead.

By doing so—and by understating SCIG’s true environmental impacts in its environmental analysis—the city not only violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) but also disregarded state civil rights laws. So NRDC, representing environmental justice groups and individuals, filed suit.

In 2016, the Superior Court found the city’s environmental analysis deficient on numerous grounds, voided the project approvals, and suspended all SCIG activities until the deficiencies were corrected. It did not rule on the civil rights claim. The city and BNSF appealed our victory to the California Court of Appeal, which affirmed the lower court’s holding that the city’s environmental analysis of SCIG was inadequate under CEQA in early 2018.

In May 2021, the Port of Los Angeles released a revised draft environmental impact report (RDEIR) for the SCIG project. However, the revised analysis still fails to present an accurate assessment of SCIG’s environmental impacts. Importantly, the project still threatens to exacerbate air pollution and worsen public health in an already-overburdened community of color.

We are currently working together with community partners East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice and Century Villages at Cabrillo to uplift frontline perspectives and to advocate for a just future for residents through the CEQA process. In August 2021, we submitted a joint comment letter outlining community concerns with the SCIG project and the RDEIR’s deficiencies. We are continuing to work to ensure that the port acts in compliance with all of its obligations under the law, including CEQA, and state and federal civil rights laws.

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