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Agencies Agree to Disclose Environmental Impacts of Bay Area Transportation and Housing Plan

Settlement lays groundwork for robust regional planning

Traffic moves freely across the Bay Bridge towards San Francisco.

trekandshoot / Shutterstock
June 19, 2014
San Francisco, CA —

Today the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments reached an agreement with environmental and social justice groups on litigation relating to their latest regional transportation and development plan, Plan Bay Area.

Plan Bay Area’s stated purpose was to reduce climate change pollution by planning for transportation, smart housing development and land management in the nine counties surrounding the San Francisco Bay.

In August 2013, Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) and Sierra Club sued the agencies for failing to adopt a plan that would meaningfully achieve these goals. Earthjustice, which represented the groups and was co-counseled by CBE, challenged the agencies for failing to provide information about the viability of communities targeted for development, for ignoring the public health effects of increased freight shipments through vulnerable communities such as East Oakland, and for taking credit for reducing greenhouse gas emissions which actually resulted from other greenhouse gas abatement measures unrelated to Plan (such as California’s low-carbon fuel standards).

Today’s settlement provides concrete benefits to all residents of the region.  The settlement requires the agencies to:

  • More honestly account for the Plan’s effects on greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Provide the public with information on how the areas targeted for housing growth, the “Priority Development Areas,” will be able to grow successfully and sustainably into the future (i.e., whether they are adequately served by public transportation, whether they are susceptible to sea-level rise); and
  • Examine how freight movement in the area harms already vulnerable communities, and take measures to mitigate those harms.

"This settlement provides the public much-needed information and lays a solid foundation for a better version of Plan Bay Area, which is due in 2017," said Irene Gutierrez, Earthjustice associate attorney. "Everyone who lives in the Bay is affected by Plan Bay Area. This settlement provides area residents with insight into how they will be served by the agencies’ plan, and how their communities are expected to grow and stay healthy over the coming years."

"This settlement requires the agencies to create a real plan for reducing the harmful pollution from trucks and trains moving freight through already highly polluted communities," said Maya Golden-Krasner, staff attorney for Communities for a Better Environment. “It sets the groundwork for the agencies to start planning how the Bay Area will move toward zero-emission trucks and trains.”

"Climate disruption threatens Bay Area families and businesses, and passenger vehicles are a leading cause of this disruption. This settlement provides residents and policy makers with important information about whether the next Plan will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles," said Matt Williams of the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter. "The settlement also provides the public with key information about the sustainability of priority development areas, which are at the heart of cutting greenhouse gas emissions and ensuring that area residents live near good public transit."

BACKGROUND

Plan Bay Area is a multi-decade regional transportation and housing plan, covering transportation planning, housing development, and land management, for the nine counties around the San Francisco Bay. The regional plan is meant to be revised every four years. The latest version of Plan Bay Area was approved by the agencies in July 2013. As mandated by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Plan Bay Area was accompanied by an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

Earthjustice represented the groups and served as co-counsel with Communities for a Better Environment in this lawsuit.  The groups challenged the agencies’ EIR for Plan Bay Area, alleging that the EIR for Plan Bay Area fell far short of providing the public with information needed to meaningfully participate in planning transportation and housing development in the Bay Area.

The settlement finalized today remedies those deficiencies by requiring the agencies to provide the public with more information about the environmental effects of the Plan. The settlement provides the public with essential information about the effects of the Plan on transportation and land-use greenhouse gas emissions, the effects of freight transportation on public health, and the viability of communities targeted for development. The gains achieved by the settlement lay the groundwork for a better regional transportation and housing plan in the future.

Contacts

Maggie Caldwell, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2084

Nile Malloy, Communities for a Better Environment, (510) 302-0430, ext. 11

Matt Williams, Sierra Club, (510) 326-6893

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.