Adrian Martinez, Staff Attorney, California Office: “People often don’t think about, how does this package from Amazon, or rug from Target, get here. All along the way, there’s places where toxic pollution is essentially poisoning communities. There’s a growing frustration that this industry isn’t doing enough to clean up its act.”
What’s at Stake
Despite recognizing the project’s significant contributions to worsening air quality, increased traffic congestion and climate change, the city required only meager steps to reduce those harms. The project area itself is one of the best raptor habitats in the state.
Environmental justice and conservation groups have sued the Southern California city of Moreno Valley over its approval of the World Logistics Center, a sprawling 40-million-square-foot warehouse project that would add 14,000 truck trips to town every day, worsen already poor air quality and harm birds and other wildlife in the nearby San Jacinto Wildlife Area.
On Feb. 8, 2018, a Riverside County judge ruled that an environmental study for the project had not fully assessed its impact on energy, biological resources, noise and agricultural land, and had described its potential effect on the nearby San Jacinto Wildlife Area in a "misleading" way when it referred to portions of the San Jacinto Wildlife Area land as buffer zones. The court has ordered the city and developer to conduct additional studies.
About the size of 700 football fields, the World Logistics Center is expected to generate 400,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually when completed and have more than 14,000 truck trips to the site every day. Those trucks would be transporting goods more than 80 miles from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to Moreno Valley, often on two-lane roads that are already congested.
Air pollution in the Inland Empire already kills 808 people each year. Despite recognizing that the World Logistic Center would significantly worsen air quality, increase traffic congestion and contribute to climate change, the city required only meager steps to reduce those harms. The project’s developer spent more than $800,000 on local ballot initiatives to circumvent environmental protection measures.
Moreno Valley approved the warehouse project in August 2015, despite the severe air and pollution problems it would bring to the region. In September 2015, a coalition of environmental groups represented by Earthjustice sued to block the warehouse until a more detailed analysis of its environmental impact had been conducted.
Earthjustice’s lawsuit in Riverside County Superior Court challenged Moreno Valley’s failure to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act when reviewing the proposed project and its substantial impacts on nearby communities and wildlife. South Coast Air Quality Management District, Riverside County Transportation Commission and Riverside County also challenged the project under CEQA.
“To bring this much additional traffic without any mitigation to an area with some of the worst air pollution is criminal,” said Penny Newman, executive director of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, when the lawsuit was filed. “Thousands of studies have demonstrated that air pollution harms people, especially children. Strokes, heart disease, asthma and other respiratory diseases, including lung cancer and even low birth weight and birth defects are linked to air pollution, yet this plan has no mitigation measures in place to address these preventable impacts.”
The San Jacinto Wildlife Area near the proposed site of the World Logistics Center is also home to many threatened and endangered wildlife and plants, including the Los Angeles pocket mouse, California golden eagle, numerous hawk, raptor and other bird species including the burrowing owl, tricolored blackbird and endangered San Jacinto crownscale. The project area itself is one of the best raptor habitats in the state.
Adrian Martinez, Attorney, California Regional Office, Earthjustice: “[The decision blocks a] bizarre loophole that the developer was trying to use. … The court foreclosed using this clever gimmick.”
Adrian Martinez, Attorney, Earthjustice: “It is going to take some work to fix the significant amount of problems that were identified ... They’ll need to take a fresh look at the project.”
Oscar Espino-Padron, Attorney, Earthjustice: “This was an inaccurate misrepresentation that tainted every step of the EIR.”