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Attorney General Accuses Carson of Violating its Own Laws

Carson is seeking to cut corners in its permitting process for a facility that handles hazardous chemicals and the California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is voicing his objection. The city wants to permit the operation of Inland Star Distribution Center, which ships and receives hazardous chemicals, based on a limited Mitigated Negative Declaration.

According to Becerra’s April 24 letter to the city, that’s a violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Becerra wrote that his review of the “Negative Declaration” determined that “it fails to disclose the full scope of the Project and further fails to mitigate the Project’s identified, significant impacts.”     

Becerra found Inland Star lacks a conditional use permit, a business license and a certificate of occupancy, and thus is operating illegally, “Inland Star has been operating in Carson without these required approvals since 2015.”

Becerra’s letter asserts that “the City’s failure to disclose all 393 chemicals in Inland Star’s past and current inventory renders the Negative Declaration’s Project Description inadequate.” He goes on to explain that  “the type and quantity of each chemical at the Inland Star site is relevant to the hazard risk to the local community in the event of an earthquake, fire, or accident” and that the company could also handle chemicals not in its inventory.

Becerra raises another issue, “The failure to disclose and analyze the Project’s cumulative land use impacts constitutes a separate violation of CEQA,” adding that the site’s continued operation also violates Carson’s own municipal code.

The site sits in a warehouse district but is about a half-mile from a residential area and Del Amo Elementary School. Becerra’s letter expresses concern that exact routes of the company’s diesel trucks have not been disclosed. They are known to be routed very close to the school and the surrounding residential neighborhood. Diesel exhaust is a known carcinogen.

The attorney general’s letter is accompanied by more than 300 pages of supporting documents and urges a full environmental report.

In February of 2016, the Los Angeles County Fire Department cited the company for failing to prepare and implement a Hazardous Materials Business Plan and Risk Management Plan, both  “required” by law, according to the letter and accompanying documents. A few months later the company assured Carson it would cease handling the chemicals that fell under the applicable law, but there is no evidence the company has done so.

Carson issued a code enforcement violation, June 7, 2016, for lack of a conditional use permit, telling the company to cease and desist until a conditional use permit was obtained. By October 2016 the city had issued two citations and the fire department had issued two citations.

One of the chemicals found in Inland Star’s January 30, 2017 chemical inventory is chloroacetyl chloride. According to the California Air Resources Board, if a single 55-gallon drum ruptured, the impact zone would extend for nearly 3,000 feet, the equivalent of ten football fields, enough to endanger local residences, Del Amo Elementary School, Dolphin Park and Carson’s Corporate Yard.

Carson council member Jim Dear said if the city does not enforce its own planning and zoning regulations, the attorney general could bring suit.

Telephone and  email requests for comment  to Carson city staff, Carson city attorney Sunny Soltani and the attorney general’s office were not responded to before deadline.

Lyn Jensen
Lyn Jensen
Lyn Jensen has been a freelance journalist in southern California since the 80s. Her byline has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register, the Los Angeles Weekly, the Los Angeles Reader, Music Connection, Bloglandia, Senior Reporter, and many other periodicals. She blogs about music, manga, and more at lynjensen.blogspot.com and she graduated from UCLA with a major in Theater Arts. Follow her on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

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