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Environmentalists Renew Challenges to LA Port's Environmental Plan

environmentalists file lawsuit against LA Port
File photo of the Port of Los Angles container terminal operations

By The Maritime Executive 09-17-2020 08:49:30

A collation of environmentalist and community groups filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles seeking to void the City Council’s recent certification of the Port of Los Angeles’ 2019 Supplemental Environmental Impact Report for the China Shipping Container terminal. The suit is the latest action in long-standing complaints from the activist groups over the port’s environmental performance.

Charging the City of Los Angeles with failure to follow state environmental law, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and its coalition partners filed th new lawsuit. They have been contesting the port’s operation plans for more than twenty years.

In 2008, the port issued an Environmental Impact Report that analyzed the environmental issues of the planned China Shipping terminal and proposed a number of measures to reduce air pollution. In 2019, the port presented a new Supplemental EIR, as part of the planned expansion of the operation of the terminal facilities. The Los Angeles City Council voted to approve the new plan in August 2020, rejecting calls from the activists for stricter environmental protections for the port terminal operations.

“The Port of L.A. broke the law by abandoning its clean air commitments in the original EIR and, without justification, adopting measures that are far less protective,” said Melissa Lin Perrella, Senior Director of Environmental Justice at NRDC in a prepared statement. The group is not satisfied with the ports mitigation measures related to the emissions from the ships, diesel trucks that transport cargos and yard equipment used at the terminal. They contend that the 2019 plan abandons critical mitigation efforts that the port previously committed to for the terminal operations. 

“Even when they comply with the law, the Port of Los Angeles causes too much air pollution,” said Dr. Joseph Lyou, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Coalition for Clean Air (CCA) in the statement issued announced the lawsuit. “The China Shipping fiasco makes matters worse. The Port’s failure to abide by the law results in people breathing more toxic diesel exhaust and more smog.” 

A vital part of the southern California economy and key port of entry and exit for goods, the Port of Los Angeles is estimated to handle more than 40 percent of all containerized cargo on the West Coast, and at least 17 percent of all containerized cargo nationwide. 

In August, when the City Council ratified the port’s plan, Executive Director Gene Seroka of Port of Los Angeles hailed the decision, saying it was a key step toward creating one of the cleanest terminals in the world. Seroka explained that the original 2008 plan including a range of cutting-edge technologies that simply were not feasible or available even 12 years later to implement. Since taking over at the port six years ago, Seroka said he had been leading efforts to determine what is realistic and develop an achievable plan for the operations going forward. That is what lead up to the 2019 revised submission.  

After the approval of the revised plan last month, the environmentalists vowed to regroup and come up with a new plan to oppose the port.

Asked for a comment about the new lawsuit, a spokesperson for the Port of Los Angeles responded, “The Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Report has been approved by the Los Angeles Harbor Commission and certified by the Los Angeles City Council. More litigation means more delays in our efforts to usher in one of the cleanest non-automated container facilities in the world, one that clears the way to introduce cleaner equipment while preserving good-paying jobs. We look forward to presenting our case.”