(August 4, 2003) -- Using a revised state law to impact decisionmaking locally, a coalition of environmental groups is asking LB's elected City Council to review a recent Harbor Commission decision that permits the expansion of a dock at the Carnival Cruise ship terminal without environmental review.
The appeal stems from the Harbor Commissioners' July 21 decision to approve changes to the dock facility. ECO-link chair Diana Mann urged environmental review (required for significant changes) to no avail.
Now Ms. Mann, and a coalition of groups including Oceana, Bluewater Network, The Sierra Club (by local rep. Dr. Gordon LaBedz) and CA Earth Corps have invoked an amended state law to get LB's elected City Council to review the non-elected Harbor Commissioners' action. In a joint letter to the Mayor and City Council dated August 1, the environmental groups write:
"Pursuant to PRC [Public Resources Code] Section 21151, subdivision C, we hereby appeal to the City Council the July 21 decision of the Harbor Commission to expand the Carnival Cruise ship dock without an environmental impact report. Port Sprawl has grave environmental impacts to our entire city. These impacts must be evaluated before any project is approved."
As amended, CA Public Resources Codes section 21151(c) provides: "If a nonelected decisionmaking body of a local lead agency certifies an environmental impact report, approves a negative declaration or mitigated negative declaration, or determines that a project is not subject to this division, that certification, approval, or determination may be appealed to the agency's elected decisionmaking body, if any."
LB's Principal Deputy City Attorney for Harbor District matters, Dominic Holzhaus, told LBReport.com that the issue the Council will determine on appeal is whether the amendment proposed (and approved) to the Carnival cruise ship dock was categorically exempt under the CA Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
That means, in effect, the Council will determine whether the facts support the Harbor Commission's decision not to require environmental review. The Council could agree with Harbor Commissioners that environmental review isn't needed, which would end city review of the matter. Or the Council could send the issue back to the Harbor Commission for additional documentation or other action.
Mr. Holzhaus indicated the matter could be on the City Council agenda fairly soon.
[LBReport.com observation: The amended state law is a significant change to local decisionmaking on environmental matters involving the Harbor Commission. Previously, a environmental review decision by the non-elected Harbor Commission either ended the matter or invited a court challenge. The amended state law effectively gives the public an opportunity to ask members of the elected body -- the City Council -- to review Harbor Commission environmental decisions before they end or escalate further.]