Orders Air Quality Review and Pollution Reductions
LOS ANGELES (October 30, 2002) -- Acting for the first time to stop a Los Angeles port project out of concerns for the health of local residents, a three-judge appellate panel today permanently enjoined construction of a new container complex that was to be operated by the China Shipping (North America) Holding Co.
The court's decision today mandates that the port and city prepare a full environmental review before resuming construction of the terminal. In their ruling, the judges unanimously found that the port and city violated state law in failing to assess the pollution, traffic and other harmful effects of the proposed terminal before approving its construction. The site of the proposed terminal lies 500 feet from local homes.
Today's ruling follows an 18-month-long legal battle by community groups with the help of NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and the Coalition for Clean Air.
"The Court said today that we don't need to sacrifice the public's health in order to have a healthy port," said NRDC senior attorney Gail Ruderman Feuer. "This is a great day for a people who've been fighting for years to breathe without fear."
The environmental groups and local residents filed the lawsuit in June 2001 claiming that the port and city's approval of the terminal-without considering its harm to neighboring communities, or taking steps to lessen that harm-violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The court today agreed and ordered the city to comply with the law before moving ahead with the project.
According to court documents, as many as 250 of the world's largest container vessels would call at the terminal-with cargo to be moved by as many as one million trucks on local streets-every year. This activity, the community charged, would likely lead to a significant increases in exposure to diesel emission, a known human carcinogen, in the nearby communities of San Pedro and Wilmington.
"We're deeply grateful that the judges can see through the obfuscation and lies of the Port and do the right thing to protect the community," said Noel Park, president of the San Pedro and Peninsula Homeowners Coalition.
"For the first time, the Port of Los Angeles, not the workers or the communities, will be required to shoulder substantial costs to correct its illegal development practices of favoring shipping tenants over public health," said Todd Campbell, policy director for the Coalition for Clean Air. "The Court's decision today tells the Port Authority that its operational health will depend on its ability to protect people who live, work and breath in and around the harbor area."
Families near the port worry that continued expansion of the harbor district would compound pollution problems in the area. The San Pedro-Wilmington district already has the highest concentration of diesel truck pollution in the Los Angeles basin. Moreover, according to a recent air toxics study by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, residents there suffer from some of the highest cancer risks in the South Coast from breathing polluted air. The study estimates that over 70% of this cancer risk comes directly from diesel exhaust.
The community faced a setback last April when the trial judge found in favor of the city and refused to enjoin operations at the site. The ruling today reverses that course, permanently enjoining further construction and operation of the terminal until the port and city prepare a full environmental review in compliance with state law.
The three-judge panel today unanimously rejected arguments by the port and city that the project had been reviewed years ago in prior environmental documents and, even if not, that the Court should allow the project to move forward with a review of its effects after the first wharf was built and operating.
The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 500,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
San Pedro and Peninsula Homeowners Coalition and San Pedro Peninsula Homeowners United are associations of homeowners and renters who live in San Pedro adjacent to the Port of Los Angeles. The associations were formed to protect the interests of these local residents.
The Coalition for Clean Air is a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to restoring clean healthful air to California by advocating responsible public health policy; providing technical and educational expertise; and promoting broad-based community involvement. More information is available through the Coalition's website.