Saturday, September 19, 2020
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Calm Before the Storm?

New China shipping EIR has huge problems, but draws little comment…for now

By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

On Oct. 25, the Port of Los Angeles held the shortest public comment meeting anyone can remember. Jesse Marquez, founder and president of the Coalition for a Safe Environment, was the only person to comment on the Draft Recirculated Supplemental Environmental Impact Report for the China Shipping Terminal, the port’s latest attempt to make up for its failure to implement the 11 mitigation measures specified in the original China Shipping EIR.

But just because there was almost no public presence does not mean no one is watching—or prepared to take action. As things stand now, a court challenge seems very likely, according to Natural Resources District Council senior attorney, David Pettit.

Marquez raised a variety of issues, including the lack of an environmental justice update and the ambiguity regarding the timetable for putting into service  new clean technologies. He worried that “some pieces of equipment might last 10, 20, 30, 40 years, and it’s their discretion as to when they might want to replace it.”

But it’s the big-picture impact of the entire project that’s foremost in the minds of many.

“It has been almost two decades since the port filed to expand the China Shipping terminal and a state court rejected the China Shipping EIR,” said Peter Warren, Treasurer of the San Pedro & Peninsula Homeowners Coalition, a plaintiff in the original lawsuit.

“For more than a decade, the port has continued to violate the settlement it signed, even entering into a secret agreement with Chinese government, which owns China Shipping, to waive the anti-pollution requirements,” Warren said.

“The port did this knowingly, saving its customer tens of millions of dollars and costing residents tens of millions of dollars in sick days, missed work, doctors bills, hospital bills and early death and morbidity. The new EIR ignores these events and goes on as if they never happened.”

NRDC Senior Attorney David Pettit agreed.

“What the Port needs to do here, first, quantify the cumulative impact of excess omissions, and then tell us how they’re going to make up for that in the future,” Pettit told Random Lengths News. But the draft EIR falls short on both counts.

“In step one, there is some data, although not all the data we’d like. In step two, ‘What are they going to do about it?’ their answer continues to be, ‘Nothing.’”

The principle of making up for past excess emissions was affirmed in a recent state court case, POET, LLC v. State Air Resources Board, which Pettit pointed to. Just last month, the ARB passed a new regulation to do just that, he explained. The port needs to do the same. “They’re going to do a final EIR, and if it looks like this one, there will be litigation,” he warned.

Warren’s conclusion was simple. “We need to be indemnified for the tens of millions of dollars in real damages. Nothing less.”

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