BNSF Railway intends to appeal a Superior Court judge’s final ruling that its proposed project to build a new rail yard adjacent to West Long Beach could not move forward because the associated environmental impact report was flawed, the rail company announced on August 2.


The judge’s decision, which came down on July 26 and was a response to an earlier appeal by BNSF for a prior ruling in March, ordered the City of Los Angeles and its board of harbor commissioners (which oversees the Port of Los Angeles) to “vacate and set aside their approvals of the project,” according to a statement from BNSF. The project was dubbed the Southern California International Gateway (SCIG).


“The appeal will contend that the ruling is incorrect, as the lower court applied an inappropriate evidentiary standard and disregarded a comprehensive eight-year environmental review in making its ruling,” BNSF’s statement read. “The Port of Los Angeles is also appealing the ruling.”


In the BNSF statement, Roger Nober, chief legal officer and vice president of law and corporate affairs for BNSF, referred to Superior Court Judge Barry P. Goode’s ruling as “an incorrect and unprecedented expansion of the scope of [the] California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)” because the ruling also considered sites “distant and distinct” from that of the proposed rail yard.


“Unless this ruling is promptly and entirely reversed, building SCIG is less likely due to the costs and delay brought on by the CEQA lawsuits,” Nober wrote. “BNSF is committed to its customers and will continue to provide world-class service without SCIG. This ruling is a loss for the region and it sends a strong message that green investment is unwelcome in California. The community and broader region won’t benefit from the traffic reductions, air quality improvements and good jobs SCIG would have brought.”


According to BNSF, the project would have generated $500 million in investment to the regional economy and included $100 million in green technologies.


The City of Long Beach, Long Beach Unified School District, several trucking firms and multiple environmental agencies brought suit to stop or stall the project when the Los Angeles City Council approved it despite those groups’ vocal concerns over what they considered a problematic environmental analysis for the project.


In his ruling, Goode found that the environmental impact report for the project underestimated traffic impacts and included misleading analyses about air quality impacts, among other issues.


Long Beach City Attorney Charles Parkin told the Business Journal in an e-mail that he wasn’t surprised about BNSF’s announcement of a planned appeal. He wrote, “It makes sense to us that they would appeal, and we remain hopeful the parties will agree to address our mitigation issues so this project can move forward.”