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County Bd. of Supervisors Adopts Resolution Urging CA Air Resources Bd To Rescind RR MOU; Urges Support for Local & Regional Anti-Pollution Efforts Via Proposed Legislation & Rule Development & Inclusion Of Stakeholder And Public Participation
(September 15, 2005) -- At its Sept. 13 meeting, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors passed a motion by Supervior Mike Antonovich (an AQMD Board member) and Gloria Molina -- and seconded by Supervisor Don Knabe who represents LB and much of southeastern L.A. County -- to send a five signature letter to the CA Air Resources Board (CARB) urging that state agency to rescind its 2005 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with UP and BNSF railroads.
The motion -- which passed 5-0 -- adds that if rescinding the MOU is not feasible, CARB should "strengthen [the MOU] by removing the termination clause" and further urges CARB "to support local and regional efforts to reduce locomotive and railyard emissions through proposed legislation and proposed rule development, and to include stakeholder and public participation in its rule and program development process."
In their agendizing memo, Supervisors Antonovich and Molina wrote in part:
Just recently, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) staff, the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad Company, and the Union Pacific Railroad Company entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU), without any public comment or consideration by the CARB, that both undercuts current visible emissions enforcement actions railroad companies must adhere to and that allows the railroads to back out of their obligations.
An MOU is not the preferred instrument to achieve emission reductions. Instead, a transparent public process must be implemented where stakeholders and both state and local regulatory agencies can provide input instead of a two-party MOU.
As previously reported by LBReport.com, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) has said the MOU undermines tougher regional AQMD standards by (among other things) applying less stringent, statewide standards. AQMD says the statewide standards fail to reflect the major local and regional impacts of the LB/LA Ports. AQMD has also charged (and CARB staff denies) that the MOU includes a "poison pill" (a termination clause) that invites railroads to walk away from tough AQMD enforcement actions by threatening to back out of the entire statewide MOU.
In late June, the City of LB (via a letter signed by Mayor Beverly O'Neill) criticized the MOU and the process used to reach it. "This MOU appears to have been developed without public participation or involvement," the Mayor wrote, adding:
With our support, the State Legislature, local air districts and other entities have been working on this issue to address significant air quality concerns about railroad operations for some time. The proposed MOU erodes the ability of local governments and local agencies to adopt or enforce any air quality requirements pertaining to the MOU.
Grassroots activists and several state lawmakers have voiced concern that the MOU undermines advancing state legislation that enhance AQMD's ability to deal with railroad pollution. CARB has added fuel to the fire by citing its MOU process in opposing the legislation. Others said the MOU threatens L.A.'s "No Net Increase" Task Force recommendations on capping Port of L.A.-related emissions (which includes measures directed at railroads).
In July, after blistering AQMD staff, boardmember and public criticism of the MOU (LBReport.com coverage linked below), the AQMD governing board voted unanimously to urge that CARB hold a hearing on the MOU before implementing it.
Finding itself under pressure on multiple fronts, CARB agreed to hold two "public consultation" meetings (one in No. Cal, the other in So. Cal) before holding a special meeting in September (now rescheduled to October) to decide what, if anything, to do about the MOU.
The southern CA "public consultation" meeting was held on August 31 in the City of Commerce. Roughly 300 people attended. For nearly five hours, a mix of state and local lawmakers, local activists and impacted members of the public blasted the MOU and the process used by CARB staff to arrive at it. Five speakers (UP, BNSF, Ass'n of American RRs, L.A. Chamber and the Pacific Merchant Shipping Ass'n) supported the MOU.
LBReport.com recently posted in depth extended audio coverage of these proceedings.
In advance of the meeting, LB Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga submitted a letter urging rescinding the MOU. Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal provided her own written testimony at the meeting, delivered in person by her Chief of Staff, Niki Tennant. Others speaking at the meeting included Wrigley Association President Joan Greenwood.
Sept. 2005: Extraordinary Meeting As Multiple Local Officials & Members of Public Blast CA Air Resources Board's "Memorandum of Understanding" With RRs
Aug. 2005: 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
July, 2005: n Depth: CA Air Resources Bd. Schedules Sept. Hearing To Discuss Controversial RR MOU
July, 2005: AQMD Governing Board Strongly Criticizes CA Air Resource Bd. MOU With Railroads, Charges It Undermines Regional & Local Clean Air Efforts; LB Mayor O'Neill Puts LB On Record Opposing MOU and Supporting Hearing
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