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LB School Board Votes To Oppose Certifying Draft EIR As Currently Circulated For Proposed WLB-Adjacent Container Transfer Railyard Sought By BNSF (So. Cal Int'l Gateway/SCIG)

(Jan. 18, 2012, updated Jan. 19) -- At its meeting last night (Jan. 17), the LBUSD School Board voted 3-0 (Stanton, Barton absent) to oppose certification of the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) as currently circulated by the Port of Los Angeles for a WLB-adjacent container transfer railyard sought by BNSF ("So. Cal. Int'l Gateway"/SCIG).

The resolution (full text below) was recommended by LBUSD Superintendent Chris Steinhauser and Facilities Development and Planning Branch Exec. Dir. Carri Matsumoto. It states in pertinent part that LBUSD's Board of Education "opposes certification of the SCIG project EIR in its current form, and requests recirculation after completion of substantial revisions to ensure it adequately evaluates the environmental impacts on District students, staff and facilities."

Superintendent Steinhauser and Boardmember McGinnis pointed out that the Board resolution doesn't oppose the SCIG project but opposes certification of the draft EIR on grounds it doesn't include sufficient information to make a valid decision on the project's impacts for students, staff and faculty.

[Update] Speakers in support of the resolution during the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting included Evelyn Knight (Greater LB Interfaith Community Organization), two Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma members, Maria Reyes, and Angelo Logan, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice. [end Update]

Speaking later on the agendized item was Andrea Hricko, Professor of Preventive Medicine at USC's Keck School of Medicine, who said she finds the draft EIR "full of significant flaws...and needs to go back to the drawing board and be redone and be recirculated." To hear the School Board item (includes Prof. Hricko's testimony) on-demand, click here.

LBReport.com provides the full text of the proposed LBUSD School Board resolution below:

WHEREAS, the Port of Los Angeles has prepared a Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) (September 2011) for the Southern California International Gateway (SCIG) Project which proposes the development of 153 acres of new and substantially expanded intermodal railyard operations that would transfer containerized cargo between trucks and railcars; and

WHEREAS, in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act, the District has the right to evaluate and comment on the EIR; and

WHEREAS, the SCIG Project is in a location close to sensitive receptors that will adversely affect the Districtís students and staff as nearby schools include Webster Elementary, Garfield Elementary School, Muir Elementary School, Stephens Middle School, Hudson K-8 School, Cabrillo High School, Reid High School, and Bethune Transitional School; and

WHEREAS, the SCIG Project EIR fails to adequately disclose significant project impacts, including impacts to District schools, staff, and students, because the EIR analysis is predicated upon illusory baseline conditions that mislead the public as to the reality of the impacts, and the EIR does not use established cancer risk factors that account for the greater sensitivity of students to toxic air contaminants; and

WHEREAS, the SCIG Project EIR does not adequately address or mitigate noise, traffic, air quality, and human health risk impacts to schools and other sensitive receptors, fails to adequately evaluate reasonable alternatives to the proposed Project, and fails to provide sufficient evidence that the zero emissions alternative is infeasible; and

WHEREAS, the SCIG Project EIR fails to adequately and accurately assess the cumulative impacts of the SCIG project in connection with other substantial development projects that will generate cumulative emissions that affect the Districtís schools, students and staff; and

WHEREAS, it is critical to the District as a policy matter to be sure that the emissions and other impacts of development projects on the Districtís schools, students, and staff are fully disclosed and mitigated, and

WHEREAS, the inadequacies of the EIR prevent the District from evaluating the true environmental consequences of the SCIG Project upon nearby school facilities and making a determination on whether to support or oppose the project.


Section 1. That the Board does hereby find and determine that the foregoing recitals and determinations are true and correct.

Section 2. That the Board of the District hereby formally opposes certification of the SCIG project EIR in its current form, and requests recirculation after completion of substantial revisions to ensure it adequately evaluates the environmental impacts on District students, staff and facilities.

After the School Board meeting concluded, Board President Williams travelled to LB City Hall and at the conclusion of the Council meeting was invited to the speaker's podium by Councilman James Johnson. Councilman Johnson introduced Board President Williams as a supporter of a cleaner environment, and Board President Williams advised the Council of the resolution just passed by the Board.

Apart from effusive praise by Councilman Johnson, there was no comment from other Councilmembers...who on December 6 took up the SCIG issue in an item agendized by Councilman Johnson and Councilwoman Rae Gabelich that opposed certification of the SCIG EIR. The Gabelich-Johnson item recommended that the Council oppose the SCIG facility at its currently proposed location and stated that there are significant and fundamental flaws in the draft EIR "which understates the major impacts of the project, and consequently, the mitigation of such impacts to the affected communities, including schools and residences in Long Beach in close proximity to the project..." The item also directed city management to communicate that position to the Port of L.A. prior to the EIR comment deadline.

After nearly three hours of polarized public testimony, the City Council approved a substitute motion by Councilman Steve Neal (passed 8-0, Garcia absent) that asked the Port of Los Angeles to provide the Council with responses on five specified issues no later than January 17 so the Council could review the Port's responses before taking voted action.

The deadline for filing EIR comments is Feb. 1. The City Council has a regularly scheduled meeting on Jan. 24.

West Long Beach resident groups have long opposed the proposed SCIG railyard [and a separate Union Pacific proposed ICTF railyard expansion] on grounds that neither of them utilize "on-dock" rail. As proposed, the two proposed projects would follow the current practice of loading containers from ships onto trucks, hauling the containers by trucks through parts of WLB and transferring them onto trains.

BNSF says its new facility will require use of cleaner trucks and apply cleaner railyard technologies that will result in less pollution than its current railyard. (Resdident groups dispute this, citing projected future increases in cargo volumes). BNSF also says trucks hauling the containers from ships to their railyard will use routes that avoid WLB residential areas.

Further as it develops...on LBReport.com.

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