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    In Depth

    LB Bd of Harbor Rescinds Pier J EIR; Port Staff Will Revise It; Enviro Groups Urge Broad Revision; Several Harbor Commissioners Pledge Revision Will Address All Issues

    (Sept. 29, 2004) -- In a businesslike atmosphere despite the extraordinary nature of the action, LB's Board of Harbor Commissioners voted 5-0 today to rescind its recent certification of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for a planned 115 acre expansion of Pier J (hooks eastward from the original Port, due south of downtown Long Beach).

    The action effectively lets Port staff revise the EIR...which would then serve as the legal basis for the Port pursuing the expansion project anew. posts extended transcript excerpts (unofficial, prepared by us) of salient portions of the proceedings, below.

    As first reported locally by, Port staff recommended rescinding certification of the EIR after examining technical materials attached to a sternly worded Sept. 22 letter from the South Coast Air Quality Management District. After examining AQMD's technical materials, Port staff concluded that reworking part of the Port's EIR was indeed warranted.

    A special meeting of the Board of Harbor Commissioner was called on 24 hours notice for 8 a.m. on September 29. The Port of LB had spent several years developing its Pier J EIR.

    Gail Rudderman Feuer, Senior Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), one of three environmental groups that had charged that the Port's EIR underestimated environmental impacts of the expansion and failed to mitigate them, commmended LB's Board of Harbor Commissioners for rescinding the EIR...and urged the Board to direct Port staff to address numerous issues raised by NRDC:

    Ms. Rudderman Feuer: ...I want to commend staff and the Board for bringing this item before you today...

    We are concerned however that the staff's proposal appears to be very narrow. Our understanding of what we've seen in the that their concern is that one issue raised by the AQMD with respect to the calculation of marine emissions may warrant further evaluation. Our concern is that we have now submitted, and you all should have a copy of our two inch binder in our submittal of information that was requested by the City Council, the purpose of that document and those materials was to show to you, as we have argued before but provide even additional documentation of why the EIR has significant deficiencies in calculation of emissions and why with respect to mitigation measures, sufficient mitigation has not been evaluated and adopted in the EIR.

    Those deficiencies go well beyond the one issue of marine emissions that is raised by the AQMD letter. In fact, frankly most of the issues raised in the AQMD letter, and in our letter, are issues that have been addressed previously by [Port] staff and rejected...

    ...Our concern is if you adopt the resolution [to rescind the EIR] and do no more, we expect you will see another round of the EIR, and we will come back to you and say, and the AQMD will come back to you and say, it is still deficient. We urge you, if you want to put an end to this and actually approve the project and move forward, you need to direct staff specifically to cure all the deficiencies raised in our Sept. 22 letter which you have, and in the AQMD's Sept. 22 letter...We urge you to direct staff to specifically cure those deficiencies...

    That's on the deficiencies with respect to calculation of emissions. Moving on to mitigation...there's no meat on the bones. For example, on the cold ironing [using dockside power] proposal, we commend this Board and staff for doing a study of cold ironing and in fact finding it's cost effective in many applications. We think you will never see cold ironing at this project because there is no proposal for doing anything with the existing berths and the only cold ironing is based on a variety of contingencies if one new berth is built, and if that berth is built and if other conditions are met, then you will see cold ironing.

    It is cost effective. It is being done in the Port of Los Angeles...

    In summary,...we urge you to direct staff not just to go back to address and analyze these issues but to adopt additional mitigation for the project and to please send the message that what they have adopted is not enough, that this Board wants more and that more can be done...

    Commissioner James C. Hankla responded, triggering responses from other Board members and related colloquy:

    Commissioner Hankla: Ms. Feuer, first of all, I have to say that I think NRDC has done this Board a great service.

    I think that you have raised issues that are pertinent and important and timely. For one Commissioner, I will assure you that every single jot and tittle is going to be reworked in light of the findings that you have suggested. Not necessarily that we'll agree, because we'll probably have disagreements. But they will be fully evaluated and the results of those evaluations will be clear, including the math, for everyone to see. As one Commissioner, I promise you that.

    [ note: "Jot and tittle" is a New Testament Biblical expression. Matt 5:18: "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled."]

    ...Commissioner Cordero: I would also echo Commissioner Hankla's comments, but in addition keep in mind that...the [resolution rescinding the previous EIR] does not exclude at a later date for this Commission to further address questions with regard to additional mitigation factors that we need to address here...

    Ms. Rudderman Feuer: ...[O]ur hope is that [the Board's resolution] would specifically include it...that it would specifically direct staff to look at additional mitigation.

    Commissioner Topsy-Elvord: I just want to ensure for you that this Commission is well aware that we all breathe the same air and we want staff to go back and look at this EIR and get it right, and we're committed to that...

    Don May, CA Earth Corps: ...A lot of you Commissioners have stated that you were not aware of just how many people are dying because of the decisions made by this Board, and now we have an opportunity to correct that...

    ...We would a whole lot rather be working cooperatively with you on those mitigations and ways to cut that down and making again the Port a positive impact on the community...

    ...This is the prototype, it's not just Pier J that we're concerned about. The benchline also is going to be established for Pier S and Pier T and D, E & F...

    Susan Nakamura, Planning Manager, SCAQMD: ...SCAQMD staff is pleased that the Board of Harbor Commissioners is reconsidering the certification of the final EIS/EIR for the Pier J project...

    SCAQMD staff would like to reiterate the importance of mitigation measures as the marine ports are one of the largest sources of air pollution in the south coast air basin...

    Todd Campbell, Policy Director, Coalition for Clean Air: ...We are learning so much about environmental impacts...This is in some sense the new frontier, and I think we have a real opportunity to move forward, protect the community and consider all the options...

    Commissioner Hankla: ...The staff should consider that the Board is directing to evaluate this process de novo [anew] and evaluate every single aspect of the EIR from the standpoint of [inaudible, mike drop out] of NRDC, Coalition for Clean Air, Earth Corps as well as AQMD...

    I don't expect us to agree on everything. Probably the key test is going to be feasibility, and if we could come to some objective standard for feasibility, that may be the beginning of agreement...

    Commissioner Cordero: ...I'm very supportive of making sure that [as Mr. Hankla stated] that is the policy and intent that we wish to address...

    The resolution adopted by the Board of Harbor Commissioners acted as a rescission of its August certification of the EIR.

    In a written release, Port of LB Executive Director Richard Steinke said, "What is happening is the way the process is supposed to work. Comments by the City Council, public and other agencies are being taken into account to produce a better document. Rescinding the certification will give the board and staff the opportunity to fully re-examine the environmental document."

    The Board of Harbor Commissioners' action comes after NRDC, along with the Coalition for Clean Air and CA Earth Corps appealed the Port's certification of the EIR to LB's City Council. Their appeal triggered an intense four-hour Sept. 14 Council hearing in which the environmental groups (and AQMD) charged that the Port's EIR underestimated pollution from the expansion project and (the environmental groups said) failed to take feasible measures to mitigate it.

    The Council declined to vote on the Port's EIR, preferring to give both sides two months to try to narrow issues and reach agreement if action now moot.

    NRDC previously sued the Port of Los Angeles over an expansion project, which produced a settlement that included several mitigation measures, including implementation of cold ironing (plug in dockside power) of some ships. The PoLB recently entered into an agreement with British Petroleum to begin LB's first cold ironing in 2006.

    The Board of Harbor Commissioners' action took place at the same time as the American Association of Port Authorities was holding its annual convention in Long Beach.

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