A lawsuit over potential environmental impacts of a rail yard proposed by Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway near West Long Beach on Port of Los Angeles property continues to be held up in court, according to city officials.
BNSF’s nearly $500 million project to build a state-of-the-art rail yard called the Southern California International Gateway (SCIG) on a 153-acre site was halted almost three years ago after the City of Long Beach, the Long Beach Unified School District, multiple trucking companies, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and other environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the Port of Los Angeles, claiming port authorities had conducted a faulty environmental impact report (EIR).
On January 28, Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Barry P. Goode was scheduled to hear oral arguments from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) on a matter regarding “due process” after the judge heard initial oral arguments from involved parties last November.
That court hearing, however, never took place because other matters came before the court, Long Beach Assistant City Attorney Michael Mais told the Business Journal in an e-mail. He said the city is waiting for the court to assign another court hearing date.
“Hopefully at that time the matter can be concluded,” Mais said.
The judge is expected to make a ruling on the project’s EIR after concluding oral arguments at the next hearing, according to the city attorney’s office. The judge would have 90 days to render a final decision on the case if oral arguments are concluded.
The lawsuit against the Port of Los Angeles was filed in 2013, stating that the port’s EIR failed to address possible health risks to schools, a homeless shelter and residential neighborhoods from increased air pollution caused by the rail yard.
Port and BNSF officials, however, assert that the project aims to reduce air pollution by taking trucks off local freeways and implementing zero-emission equipment. BNSF officials have also expressed plans to create a buffer to protect neighborhoods from air and noise pollution while continuing efforts to relocate port-related businesses currently operating at the proposed rail yard site.
BNSF has been planning to build the rail yard on property bounded by Sepulveda Boulevard, Pacific Coast Highway, the Dominguez Channel and Terminal Island Freeway for decades. The plan is to transfer cargo containers (from trucks to rail lines) closer to port docks in order to increase efficiency and capacity.