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    Councilwoman Reyes Uranga Submits Letter To CA Air Resources Bd. Opposing Its MOU With RRs In Present Form, Prefers Legislation And Regs, Or Alternatively MOU Modifications With Public Participation

    (August 31, 2005) -- In advance of tonight's (Aug. 31) public consultation meeting in the City of Commerce, scheduled by the CA Air Resources Board concerning its controversial Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with railroad industry representatives, 7th district Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga has submitted a letter to CARB for entry into the record making several points on behalf of her constituents.

    The letter, dated August 26 and written on the Councilwoman's 7th district Council office letterhead, is addressed to CARB chair Cindy Tuck, and states:

    On behalf of the 7th District constituents in the City of Long Beach, I would like to address some critical issues regarding the recently negotiated Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between California Air Resources Board (CARB) staff and the Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad companies. As you know, continued air pollution from locomotives and railyards is a major health and safety concern to the families I represent.

    I was advised that after numerous letters and other statements of concern, CARB recently acted to require Board ratification of any future staff-negotiated MOUs or any amendments to existing MOUs. Furthermore, the CARB staff must notify both the Board and the public when negotiations on new MOUs are initiated and must solicit public comments.

    I support this additional level of public participation and would urge CARB to solicit comments from the Westside Long Beach community for consideration on all matters pertaining to railyards. The area I represent is immediately adjacent to the existing UP ICTF and proposed BNSF facilities. The direct impacts of railroads are absorbed by seven schools, a citywide childcare facility, residential neighborhoods and social services -- mitigation must acknowledge the 24-hour impacts of rail.

    As you deliberate on further improvements to the MOU and/or other means to reduce the health impacts of railroad operations, I urge you to consider the following points:

    • The MOU in its present form is unacceptable; no MOU would be better than the current MOU. This is especially true given the "poison pill provision" in the MOU which allows the railroads to back out of their obligations if any state, local or federal agency pursues a measure directed at the same goals as the MOU. This provision must be removed.

    • Legislation and regulations are preferred over an MOU, but if CARB proceeds with the MOU, it must be modified with full public participation to require enforceable emission reductions based on utilization of costeffective, advanced and feasible technologies. There needs to be equity between the levels of control required of local businesses and the railroads.

    • The MOU is vague or otherwise deficient in many respects, including health risk reduction and enforceability. For example, risk thresholds and timelines must be set and enforceable risk reduction plans required. Levels of penalties for violations must be commensurate with the levels currently prescribed under law.

    • Finally, CARB should withdraw its opposition to AB 888 and SB 459, and issue support positions for these bills, as well as local efforts such as South Coast AQMD proposed Regulation 35. These efforts offer the potential for greater and more expeditious emission reductions and health benefits than the corresponding provisions in the MOU. Communities that are continuously exposed to toxic diesel emissions from locomotive and railyard emissions need immediate relief.

    In closing, I would like to thank you for recently scheduling Public Consultation Meetings and a Board Hearing on the MOU which will allow for questions and comments from the public. I plan on following the process to ensure that the interests of the people I serve are protected and air pollution impacts of railroad operations are reduced or mitigated to the fullest extent.


    [s/ Tonia]
    Tonia Reyes Uranga
    Councilmember, 7th district

    Cc: Chairman, BNSF
    Chairman, UP
    Executive Officer, SCAQMD

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