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LBUSD Files Railyard Suit

The Long Beach Unified School District filed a lawsuit today over a proposed railyard near schools, seeking proper analysis and mitigation of emissions and other impacts upon West Long Beach school children and school staff.

“Our school district’s primary goal is to provide a safe learning environment,” said LBUSD Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser.  “We cannot support a project that would pose any health risk to our students and staff.”

The suit asks the courts to set aside Los Angeles’ leaders recent approval of the Southern California International Gateway Project (SCIG), asserting that the Los Angeles Harbor Department (the Port) failed to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act when it certified the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the project.

The proposed project consists of a huge intermodal railyard to transfer cargo containers between trucks and railcars. The school district operates numerous schools close to the project site, with the closest school located only 210 feet away from the proposed project. 

As currently proposed, the project will significantly increase diesel and other emissions very close to these nearby schools, where those emissions will adversely affect hundreds of schoolchildren attending classes at the schools and playing outdoors on the school playgrounds.

The EIR masks the true impacts of the project on students, schools and staff. California has developed special standards for evaluating emissions impacts on students, but the Port refused to apply those standards.  Alternatives to the project such as on-dock rail would avoid the impacts to students, but the Port refused to evaluate such alternatives, instead dismissing them from consideration in the EIR.  A number of mitigation measures were suggested to reduce impacts to schools and school children, but the Port refused to consider them as conditions of approval to the project.

The school district raised all of the above complaints, as well as others, throughout the Port’s EIR process.  In response to the Notice of Preparation that started the EIR process, the school district identified specific environmental, health and safety impacts and suggested a range of mitigation measures.  The school district raised all of the issues in this lawsuit in its comments on the Draft EIR for the project, and it reiterated these same concerns in its comments on the Recirculated Draft EIR.  The school district also objected to the project before both the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners and the Los Angeles City Council.  In addition, the school district sought to mediate these issues with the Port pursuant to CEQA’s mediation process, but the Port declined to participate in such a process.