" Fed'l Environmental Protection Agency Slaps Down Garcia-Co-Authored I-710 Metro Expansion Motion For Trying To Bypass Federally Req'd Detailed Air Quality Review
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Fed'l Environmental Protection Agency Slaps Down Garcia-Co-Authored I-710 Metro Expansion Motion For Trying To Bypass Federally Req'd Detailed Air Quality Review

Says Garcia-Solis advocated "Clean Trucks Program" even if fully implemented would worsen air quality, EPA says project requires federally compliant hot-spot analysis



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(May 11, 2021, 6:35 a.m.) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) western Regional Office in San Francisco has slapped down a key element of the I-710 expansion plan -- that Mayor Robert Garcia advocated and co-authored as a motion when he was a Metro Boardmember -- for attempting to use a "clean truck program" to bypass legally required detailed review of the freeway expansion project's air pollution impacts.

The federal agency's action is also an implicit slap at the Long Beach City Council's "I-710 Oversight Committee" (Councilmembers Uranga, Austin and Richardson) which rubberstamped the expansion plan without a detailed analysis of its air pollution impacts on their constituents along the I-710's notorious "diesel death zone."

At the time, clean air advocates and impacted neighborhood residents argued to no avail against the Garcia-advocated Metro action and the Council's I-710 Oversight Committee's approval.

The EPA analysis doesn't oppose the I-710 expansion plan itself but declines to accept a central claim of the Metro motion advocated Mayor Garcia and L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis that contended a Clean Truck Program would be sufficient to advance the project b bringing air quality improvements. EPA said it believes the opposite is the case: "There is no current air quality modeling that demonstrates that the I-710 Clean Truck Program sufficiently reduces emissions such that the I-710 expansion project does not create PM NAAQS hot-spots. In fact, we expect increases in the severity of existing violations even if the proposed I-710 Clean Truck Program were to be fully implemented given dust, tire wear and brake wear."

The EPA's position in an undated letter to Metro and Caltrans first reported by StreetsblogLA here, was subsequently reported by the Pacific 6 subsidiary owned/operated LBPost.com in a story here that doesn't mention Garcia's name or his role as a co-author of the I-710 motion approved by Metro's governing board.

[Scroll down for further.]










In its letter, EPA's Region IX San Francisco office states in pertinent part:

Caltrans and Metro proposed the I-710 Clean Truck Program to potentially offset the significant increase of diesel-emitting trucks that would result from the project, thereby attempting to remove the status of the project as a "Project of Air Quality Concern" and the need for a PM hot-spot analysis as part of the project-level transportation conformity determination...[T]he EPA ultimately concludes that a PM hot-spot analysis is necessary for the projectís transportation conformity determination" [and attaches a 13 page technical analysis supporting this.]
Sponsor

The EPA's 13 page attached technical analysis states:

EPA is very supportive of using zero emissions truck technology on the I-710 freight corridor, but it is critical that public agencies develop a program that meets all of the regulatory requirements so that emissions will not increase and negatively impact public health in the future. This document describeswhy EPA does not agree that (1) the I-710 Clean Truck Program renders the I-710 project as a project that is not of air quality concern and (2) that the project does not need a PM hot-spot analysis.

To summarize:

  • The I-710 project requires a PM hot-spot analysis under the Clean Air Act (CAA) and EPAís transportation conformity regulations because it is a highway expansion project that would result in a significant increase in the number of diesel vehicles.
  • The clear purpose of the hot-spot regulations are to implement the Clean Air Actís requirements that projects do not cause or contribute to violations of EPAís national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS), worsen existing violations, or delay attainment or other milestones.
  • There is no current air quality modeling that demonstrates that the I-710 Clean Truck Program sufficiently reduces emission s such that the I-710 expansion project does not create PM NAAQS hot-spots. In fact, we expect increases in the severity of existing violations even if the proposed I-710 Clean Truck Program were to be fully implemented given dust, tire wear and brake wear
  • The transportation conformity regulation allows mitigation measures to be included as part of a hot-spot analysis for a project but does not permit mitigation measures to avoid a hot-spot analysis for a project of air quality concern.
  • As a mitigation measure, the I-710 Clean Truck Program would need a federally enforceable written commitment to be relied upon for a project-level transportation conformity determination.
  • The project sponsor has not utilized more recent travel activity assumptions for truck movement along the I-710 freight corridor.
  • The I-710 Clean Truck Program does not meet EPAís guidance that diesel replacement programs can be used in a conformity determination if the older diesel vehicles are scrapped. As a mitigation measure, the I-710 Clean Truck Program would need a federally enforceable written commitment to be relied upon for a project-level transportation conformity determination.
  • The project sponsor has not utilized more recent travel activity assumptions for truck movement along the I-710 freight corridor.
  • The I-710 Clean Truck Program does not meet EPAís guidance that diesel replacement programs can be used in a conformity determination if the older diesel vehicles are scrapped.

    Sponsor

    Sponsor

    The EPA's analysis concludes: "...EPA finds there are significant issues with this proposal that are in conflict with the Clean Air Act and the transportation conformity regulation. EPA continues to support using ZE truck technology on the I-710 freight corridor but does not accept the proposal that the I-710 Clean Truck Program eliminates the need for a PM hot-spot analysis for the I-710 project. It is critical that public agencies develop a program that meets all of the regulatory requirements so that emissions will not increase and negatively impact the PM NAAQS and public health in the future..."

    Sponsor


    The EPA's action effectively rejects a key contention of the Garcia-Solis Metro approval motion, reported in detail by LREPORT.com on March 2, 2018:

    [LBREPORT.com archival text]...[T]he governing board of the L.A. County Metropolitian Transportation Authority (Metro) voted without dissent on March 1 to designate I-710 freeway project Alternative 5C as "Locally Preferred Alternative" as amended by a motion co-authored by (among others) L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and further amended at the meeting by L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin...

    ...Multiple grassroots organized health, clean air and community groups from L.A. to Long Beach blasted the action. Business interests, construction trade unions. SCAG [regional government body] and SCAQMD [comprised of regional elected officials] supported it. Members of the public were allowed (as usual with Metro) one minute each to speak...and there were over a 100 speakers...

    Prior to the March 1 Mero meeting, Mayor Garcia and County Supervisor Hilda Solis issued a statement (in pertinent part below):

    Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, Supervisor Janice Hahn, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Inglewood Mayor James Butts, and Councilmember Ara Najarian have proposed an amendment to the staff recommendation of Alternative 5C for the I-710 South Corridor, known as Motion 5.2. Alternative 5C with proposed Motion 5.2 refinements would result in cleaner air for the communities along the I-710 Corridor, improve safety for both car and truck drivers, and make major investments in bike and pedestrian paths.

    Alternative 5C will result in I-710 corridor modernization that would improve safety in and out of America's largest ports: the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach. 40% of America's goods come in and out of the twin ports. Approximately 85-90% of the Alternative 5C will be completed within the existing I-710 right of way. This alternative improves safety along the whole corridor and will create thousands of local jobs. Alternative 5C also includes numerous community benefits including bike pedestrian bridges over the LA River, a zero emissions truck program, new and enhanced transit service, and the ability to increase park space for neighboring communities.

    5.2 SUBJECT: MOTION BY DIRECTORS SOLIS, GARCIA, RIDLEY-THOMAS, BUTTS, NAJARIAN, AND HAHN 2018-0068

    WE THEREFORE MOVE that the Board adopt Alternative 5C as the Locally Preferred Alternative for the I-710 South Corridor Project FEIR/FEIS (inclusive of Motion 22.1 from October 2015) and expedite the delivery of an Early Action Program (EAP) that emphasizes the following:

    A. Projects that deliver the most immediate and significant benefits related to safety, mobility and air quality;

    B. Projects that can be implemented with minimal or no displacement of residences, businesses, and sensitive land uses;

    C. Developing a local/targeted hiring policy that is applicable to any and all eligible funding sources;

    D. Conduct an operational performance analysis upon completion of the Early Action Program utilizing the most current State and local evaluation measures and standards to re-evaluate and re-validate the remaining elements of Alternative 5C, especially identifying opportunities to further reduce property impacts;

    E. Return to the board upon completion of the aforementioned directive to seek further consideration and authorization related to implementing the balance of improvements in Alternative 5C.

    FURTHER MOVE that the Board direct the CEO to establish a working group with the freight industry, air quality regulators, transportation and metropolitan planning agencies, the Gateway Council of Governments and other relevant stakeholders to explore the lead authorities, financial impact and other implementation factors related to:

    A. Develop a strategic plan that is consistent with the South Coast Air Quality Management Plans, which expedites the transition from diesel freight trucks to near-zero emission vehicles as soon as possible and outlines a transition to zero-emission vehicles as the cleanest, most reliable technology becomes available;

    B. Host an industry forum aimed at stimulating and accelerating the deployment of cleaner freight truck alternatives. The forum shall include, but not be limited to topics such as funding and financing, public-private partnerships, new technologies, on- and off-dock rail support facilities, best practices research and development, demonstration programs (example: rechargeable roadways), creative purchase/lease incentive programs, etc.;

    C. Develop and evaluate multiple scenarios for a comprehensive congestion demand management program, to be evaluated independently, that focuses on separating freight and non-freight vehicles (i.e. dedicated toll lanes) within the existing rights of way on freeways facilities throughout Los Angeles County with priority on Near-Zero and Zero-Emission vehicles;

    D. Develop an overarching transportation demand management (TDM) strategy consistent with the larger, previously approved TDM strategy development process that will minimize the impact of goods movements and people in the surrounding communities along the I-710 corridor.

    FURTHER MOVE that the CEO works with the Gateway Cities Council of Governments to assess the effectiveness and recommend potential improvements to the community participation structure that was established for the environmental review period. Report back to the board in 120 days.

    FURTHER MOVE that, as part of its NextGen Bus Study, Metro evaluate the feasibility of implementing high-frequency bus service in accordance with Motion 22.1 (October 2015).

    5.1 SUBJECT: REVISED MOTION BY DIRECTORS HAHN, SOLIS, GARCIA, AND DUPONT-WALKER 2018-0053

    WE THEREFORE MOVE to direct the Metro CEO and Staff to, as part of, staff recommended Locally Preferred Alternative 5c:

    A. Change the Zero Emission/Near Zero Emission truck technology development program to the phased-in "Zero Emission Truck Technology Development Program."

    B. Increase program funding target from $100 million to $200 million, and include in the Program incentives and grants investment in the acceleration of zero emission technology both for long hauling trucks and for freeway infrastructure, including but not limited to, "under the pavement" vehicle charging capacity as options to consider.

    C. Convene a working group comprised of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), California State Department of Transportation (Caltrans), Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD), California Transportation Commission (CTC), the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, zero-emission industry experts and other key stakeholders to develop a policy recommendation for a full, zero-emission only, dedicated lane including, but not limited to "rechargeable roadways" on the entire 19 mile long stretch of the 710 freeway, as part of the reevaluation of the remaining elements of Alternative 5c, after the Early Action Projects have been completed.

    ...A second agendized motion co-authored by Solis and Garcia (to promote zero emission vehicles) was diluted with an acknowledgment that it would have required circulating a new EIR, which would have delayed the "early action items."

    In written statements prior to the March 1 Metro Board meeting, Garcia and Solis explicitly declined to circulate a new EIR on the project as sought by a coalition of groups in opposition.

    Although the EPA stance could slow approval of the freeway expansion project, the letter signed by EPA Director of its Air and Radiation Division states: "I understand that our staff are already in dialogue on possible alternatives."

    Long Beach Council Record

    Despite its highly impactful LB consequences, Mayor Garcia didn't mention the upcoming I-710 action in his mid-January 2018 State of the City message. Garcia didn't agendize the I-710 issue for full Council discussion and voted approval. Neither did any of LB's policy-setting LB Councilmember(s). In other words, the Council let Garcia do what he did.

    On Jan 30, 2018, the Council's "I-710 Oversight Committee" (which doesn't have project approval power but consists of three LB Councilmembers [Uranga, Austin and Richardson] with districts along LB's 710 corridor) scheduled a January 30 meeting at 3:00 p.m. (when many impacted residents would be at work) to [agendized title] "receive an update and select locally preferred alternative for the I-710 Project."

    The Council Committee provided no online agenda materials for public review prior to its meeting (screen save below as of 10:30 a.m. on the meeting date) and meeting materials didn't materialize online until after the Committee was over.

    A letter dated January 25, 2018 by the Coalition for Environmental Health and Justice to the Gateway Council of Governments stated the group's opposition that focused on zero emissions ("Our communities deserve a project that advances zero emissions in a meaningful way, not just a project that widens the road and hopes zero emissions technology will come. A mandatory zero emissions corridor or lanes is a critical component to any project"); displacement ("We remain deeply opposed to the project displacing homes and homeless facilities. The consultants must do a better job in designing a project that protects these vital resources") and targeted hiring (including a "project labor agreement") It also faulted the project's environmental review process for not putting out a preferred alternative during the environmental review process and then "rushing to select an alternative shortly thereafter." The group's letter urged rejection of Alternatives 5C and 7 and asks that the project team address the issues in its letter and revise and recirculate the project's environmental documents accordingly. .

    A number of residents and grassroots groups testified in opposition to Alternative 5C with several urging the Council Committee to recommend that Metro halt the project's advance and re-work it to focus to a greater extent on health and community benefits.

    • To hear the public's testimony, click here.
    • To hear the three Councilmembers' responses (in order: Uranga, Austin and Richardson) prior to their vote support Alternative 5C, click here

    In colloquy with a Metro rep, Committee member/Vice Mayor Richardson said [paraphrase] he views the project as an opportunity to correct a chronic NLB injustice in the current configuration of the 710/91 interchange which leaves some adjoining land areas "land locked." He also voiced concern that the project's "Early Action" items north of downtown receive the same priority as downtown LB area items (which include the Shoemaker bridge entryway to downtown LB.) Richardson ultimately incorporated his concerns in the motion as made by Committee member Austin, seconded by chair Uranga, which was:

    A motion was made by Member Austin, seconded by Chair Uranga, to approve recommendation to support alternative 5C and further study: [1] the I-91 and I-405 interchanges with the I-710 with intention of highest and best use of land locked parcels; and [2] early action projects for the interchanges dispersed throughout the City, specifically to include certain areas on the map are included in City's official request for early action projects further north of the Shoemaker Bridge are included with the same emphasis that have been highlighted with the Shoemaker Bridge.

    The Council Committee's motion carried 3-0 and wasn't brought to the full policy-setting City Council for high visibility discussion and public input.


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